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Chapin, Harry Forster (07 December 1942–16 July 1981), popular singer and writer of topical songs, was born in New York City, the son of James Forbes Chapin, a big-band percussionist, and Elspeth Burke. As a high school student, Chapin sang in the Brooklyn Heights Boys Choir and, later, played guitar, banjo, and trumpet in a band that included his father and brothers Stephen Chapin and Tom Chapin. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy briefly and studied at Cornell University from 1960 to 1964. Chapin was best known for his popular ballads, films, and cultural and humanitarian work for the cause of eradicating world hunger. He married Sandra Campbell Gaston in 1968; they had five children....

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George M. Cohan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 236 P&P).

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Cohan, George M. (3 or 4 July 1878–05 November 1942), performer, writer of songs, musicals, and plays, and producer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Jeremiah “Jerry” John Cohan and Helen “Nellie” Frances Costigan. (Cohan’s middle initial stands for Michael.) At the age of seven, Cohan was sent to the E Street School in Providence. His formal schooling lasted six weeks, after which the school sent him to rejoin his parents and sister, Josie, in their theatrical travels. He took violin lessons and played the instrument both in the theater orchestra and in a trick violin act he devised. The Cohans went on their first road show as a family in 1889; when the show failed they went back to ...

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DeSylva, B. G. (27 January 1895–11 July 1950), lyricist and film and theatrical producer, was born George Gard DeSylva in New York City, the son of Aloysius Joseph DeSylva, a vaudeville performer turned attorney, and Georgetta Gard, daughter of a U.S. marshal. When he was two, his family moved to Los Angeles, where his father—who had played in vaudeville as Hal de Forest—tried to make a child star of DeSylva. His debut came at age four in a song-and-dance routine at the Grand Opera House, and for a time he toured on the Keith vaudeville circuit. But DeSylva’s youthful show business career was terminated by his maternal grandfather, who insisted the boy receive a stable and normal education (Georgetta’s father had earlier prompted the elder DeSylva to quit show business and seek a “respectable” profession as a condition for marrying his daughter)....

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Dietz, Howard (08 September 1896–30 July 1983), lyricist and publicity director, was born in New York City, the son of Herman Dietz, a jeweler, and Julia Blumberg. While a student at Townsend Harris Hall, a public high school for unusually able students, Dietz took a job as a copyboy on a newspaper, the ...

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Donnelly, Dorothy Agnes (28 January 1880–03 January 1928), actress, playwright, and librettist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Thomas L. Donnelly, a theatrical manager, and Sarah Williams, an actress. After the early death of her father, Donnelly was raised in the home of her uncle Fred Williams, stage director for ...

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Freed, Arthur (09 September 1894–12 April 1973), film producer and popular song lyricist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Max Grossman, an international art dealer, and Rosa (maiden name unknown). His father’s job as an art dealer led the family all over the world. But the family eventually settled in Seattle, in a large house filled with antiques. Freed grew up there in a musical family. His father sold zithers as a sideline and was said to have a strong tenor voice. While a student at Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he graduated in 1914, Freed began writing poetry. From prep school he went into show business, starting out as a piano player for a Chicago music publisher. During World War I, while in the army, he wrote shows with his partner, Louis Silvers. Then, after the war, he went back to Seattle....

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Hammerstein, Oscar, II (12 July 1895–23 August 1960), Broadway librettist, lyricist, and producer, was born Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II in New York City, the son of William Hammerstein, the manager of the Victoria Theater, and Alice Nimmo. In addition to his career as a builder of New York theaters (including the Victoria), Oscar’s grandfather ...

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Jefferson, Eddie (03 August 1918–09 May 1979), jazz singer, lyricist, and tap dancer, was born Edgar Jefferson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Information about his parents is unknown. It is known that he started dancing around age eight. He also played tuba in a school band and taught himself guitar and drums, experiences that later gave his singing a firm musical foundation. In Pittsburgh he was accompanied by pianist ...

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Kalmar, Bert (16 February 1884–18 September 1947), vaudeville entertainer, lyricist, and writer for the musical stage and films, was born in New York City. Nothing is known of his parents. Born into a poor community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, as a child Kalmar became known as “the marvel of the neighborhood” for parlor stunts, hat juggling, and sleight-of-hand tricks. He ran away from home at the age of ten and entered the world of entertainment in tent shows, initially as a magician. Kalmar created and performed good-natured parodies of the popular songs of the day, the high point of many comic acts. His professional breakthrough occurred when he was hired by Mortimer Theise to imitate ...

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Logan, Joshua (05 October 1908–12 July 1988), director, producer, playwright, lyricist, and actor, was born Joshua Lockwood Logan in Texarkana, Texas. His lumberman father, Joshua Lockwood Logan, Sr., died when Logan was only three years old. He was raised in Louisiana by his mother, Susan Nabors, and stepfather, Howard F. Noble, an officer on the staff of the Culver Military Academy, where Logan attended school. Logan began his theatrical career in 1928 as a student at Princeton University, where he was a founder of the University Players, a summer stock group that performed on Cape Cod and that also included ...

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Payne, John Howard (09 June 1791–09 April 1852), author and actor, was born in New York City, the son of William Payne, a schoolmaster, and Sarah Isaacs. Payne’s theatrical interests began early, while he was still a pupil in his father’s school in Boston, where the family moved in 1799. There he acted, organized a marching band, and, when only thirteen, wrote newspaper drama criticisms and became assistant editor of a journal, ...