Edgar Yipsel ("Yip") Harburg was born Irwin Hochberg on April 8, 1896, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (Some sources give the year of his birth as 1898.) He showed his flair for light verse at an early age, but after graduating from the City College of New York in 1917, he pursued a career in business, while continuing to write in his spare time. After a period of prosperity, his electrical supply company failed in the late 1920s, and he decided to change careers.
Harburg quickly achieved great success as a lyricist. Over the years, he collaborated with many composers, including Jay Gorney, Vernon Duke, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane, Sammy Fain, and Jule Styne. Harburg wrote the lyrics for shows such as Finian's Rainbow and films such as The Wizard of Oz . His long list of hit songs includes "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "April in Paris," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Over the Rainbow," and "How are Things in Glocca Morra?"
Harburg's Hollywood career came to a halt in the early 1950s when he was blacklisted. A staunch advocate of a variety of left-leaning causes, Harburg was never a member of the Communist Party. The blacklist did not prevent him from working on Broadway, but his musicals after Finian's Rainbow did not match the success of his earlier works.
Yip Harburg died on March 5, 1981 in Brentwood, California.
From the guide to the The E.Y. Harburg Collection, 1929-1968 (inclusive), (Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University)