Harry Warren, famous and prolific composer of popular songs.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Salvatore Guaragna (1893-1981), the eleventh son of twelve children of impoverished Italian immigrants from Calabria whose father was a shoemaker, he nevertheless learned to play accordion and piano as a youngster. He possessed an unusual ability to sight read music that drew him to church where he served as altar boy and sang in the choir. The church organist took an interest in him to the extent of giving him musical instruction -the only one he ever had. He dropped out of high school, served in the United States Navy in the First World War, changed his name to Harry Warren, and went through a cycle of menial jobs before landing a job in 1922 promoting music for a Tin Pan Alley publisher. The exposure to the world of popular music opened a door for him to compose his own tunes. Success came almost immediately upon publication of his songs. In the early 1930s, as the talking pictures began to expand, Warren was fortunate to be noticed by Hollywood studios and hired by Warner Brothers to write songs for musicals. He scored a major hit when one of his songs "Lullaby of Broadway" written for the movie 42nd Street," won an Academy Award for "The Gold Diggers of 1935." In succeeding years he was paired with some of the greatest lyricists of the day and earned thousands of dollars weekly during the Great Depression. Among the more memorable of the literally hundreds of songs he wrote were: "Would You Like to Take a Walk?"; "We're in the Money"; "Chatanooga Choo Choo"; "Serenade in Blue"; "Jeepers Creepers"; and another Academy Award winner, " On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe." Ironically, although Warren wrote more hit songs than Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin or Richard Rodgers, he was not as well known. Although it is interesting to speculate as to how deeply his ethnic background informed his writing, we unfortunately have little information on the matter. However, at least one interviewer quoted him regarding his name change as saying, " I'm sorry now that I changed it but what are you going to do about it? I tell everybody I am Italian." He also told Carmen Miranda who complimented him on writing such good Brazilian tunes: "They're all Italian tunes with another beat." At least a couple of his song titles' possess an Italian connection: "Where Do You Worka John?" and "That's Amore." Although Warren was the most prolific of Italian American popular songwriters, there were others such as Frankie Carle, James V. Monaco, Ray Anthony, Carmen Lombardo, and Henry Mancini.

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