Gus Kahn: Tin Pan Alley Wordsmith

Today is the birthday of great American lyricist Gus Kahn (1886-1941). He began his career writing special material for vaudeville acts in the early teens, and progressed to Broadway, where he contributed to many of the top shows of the teens and twenties, including Whoopee with Eddie Cantor, Sinbad with Al Jolson and revues such as Artists and Models and several editions of The Passing Show. In the 30s, he moved out to Hollywood, contributing to several hit films including Flying Down to Rio, Kid Millions and A Day at the Races. (Speaking of the Marx Brothers, Kahn’s daughter married Groucho’s son Arthur Marx).

Kahn’s musical collaborators included most of the great composers of the era. Including his wife Grace Leboy, and Isham Jones, with whom he wrote this, one of his best known songs:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, either! 


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