Harold Arlen: selected songs, 1929-1938


page originally published on 23 March 2009; latest edit: 28 December 2021


Get Happy
(m. Harold Arlen, w. Ted Koehler)

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea 
(Arlen, Koehler)

I Love a Parade (Arlen, Koehler)
I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
(Arlen, Koehler)
I’ve Got the World on a String
(Arlen, Koehler)

It’s Only a Paper Moon (m. Harold Arlen, w. E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and Billy Rose)
Stormy Weather (Arlen, Koehler)
Let’s Fall in Love (Arlen, Koehler)

As Long as I Live (Arlen, Koehler)
Ill Wind (Arlen, Koehler)
You’re a Builder Upper (m. Arlen, w. Ira Gershwin, E. Y. Harburg)
Fun To Be Fooled (m. Arlen, w. Ira Gershwin, E. Y. Harburg)
Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block (m. Arlen, w. Ira Gershwin, E. Y. Harburg)
Shoein’ the Mare (m. Arlen, w. Ira Gershwin and E. Y. Harburg)

Last Night When We Were Young (m. Harold Arlen, w. E. Y. Harburg)

Buds Won’t Bud (Arlen, Harburg)
Down With Love (Arlen, Harburg)

See also: 


(above, left) Harold Arlen in 1926, age 21; (right and below, left) date unknown


Harold Arlen biography, at the official website (click) haroldarlen.com It’s a beautifully done site, one of the more comprehensive and user friendly sites on Songbook composers that I’ve seen.

The Early Years
A Dream to Perform
The Cotton Club Years
Let’s Fall In Love – Anya Taranda
We’re Off To See The Wizard! – Composing the Score to the Wizard of Oz
My Shining Hour – The Great Composer (Part 1)
A Star is Born – The Great Composer (Part 2)
Last Night When We Were Young – Conclusion
Post Script – Harold Arlen Who?



(above, left to right) Ted Koehler, unknown, Ruth Etting, Harold Arlen, c. 1933

arlen-anya-photo-14Harold Arlen and Anya Taranda

(left) Harold Arlen posing with models or showgirls. Anya Taranda, his future wife, is on the far right. They met on the set of Earl Carroll’s Vanities in 1932. I don’t know if this photo was taken during that show — (right) Harold Arlen and Anya Taranda.

Also from the official Harold Arlen site: The songs….

Composition Catalogue – Complete List of Works

Harold Arlen wrote over 400 songs from 1924 through 1976. He worked with 31 different lyricists and composed scores for both Hollywood films and Broadway musicals. Find the song you’re looking for now!

Search the Complete List of Works by:
Song Title
| Year | Lyricist


Selected Harold Arlen Songs 1929-37


Get Happy (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)

Ruthetting.com says:

In 1929, Ruth Etting starred in Ruth Selwyn’s unsuccessful musical “Nine-Fifteen Revue” which closed in New York in less than a week; however, she did introduce Ted Koehler’s and Harold Arlen’s great song “Get Happy” which became one of her most famous hit records. George Gershwin called her handling of the song the most exciting finale he had ever heard in a theatre.

According to the “Song of the Week” article on the song at WICN.org, the song transformed Arlen from a singer into a songwriter. The number developed from a two-bar  “pickup” vamp which Arlen created while working as a rehearsal pianist for the 1929 Broadway show Great Day!. He played it during rehearsals to signal dancers that a number would begin momentarily. The vamp developed over time into something more than a cue as Arlen, “fooling around” with the vamp, extended it and produced variations. He also reportedly worked on the theme during down time, improvising freely.

After the show’s choral director, Will Marion Cook, complimented him on the growing theme and warned him that he better use it before someone stole it, Arlen followed his advice:

[Arlen] took his vamp to an acquaintance, Harry Warren, who at the time was working as a Tin Pan Alley composer on the staff of Remick’s Music Company, a music-publishing house. Warren convinced him that the vamp had the makings of a song and introduced him to lyricist Ted Koehler. Many years later, Arlen told author Max Wilk, “Koehler sits down and writes a set of words to my little vamp, and he calls it ‘Get Happy.’ I didn’t seek it out, or ask for it – it just happened.”It wasn’t quite that easy for Koehler. In actuality, he listened to Arlen play the tune over and over while he formulated an idea for the lyrics. At http://www.jazzstandards.com Chris Tyle writes, “The piece contained a repeated rhythmic figure that suggested the words “Get Happy” to Koehler, who knew that the phrase came from the African-American gospel music tradition and referred to the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit during a church service. The remainder of the lyrics to the tune unfolded as a sort of pseudo-spiritual.”

Ted Wallace & his Campus Boys – 1930


Larry Clinton and his Orchestra featuring vocals by Bea Wain and Ford Leary, with the Philharmonicas, in the short film The Dipsy Doodler (1940).


Judy Garland

1. Summer Stock (1950)


2. Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand duet: medley “Get Happy”/ “Happy Days Are Here Again” from The Judy Garland Show, Episode #9, taped October 4, 1963

with introductory dialogue


3. Performed by Judy on Episode #25 of “The Judy Garland Show,” taped 6 March 1964 and broadcast 22 March 1964


(below) from Episode #25, taped 6 March 1964: Get Happy, As Long As He Needs Me, By Myself, and Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries



Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) was written for the Cotton Club revue Rhyth-Mania which opened in March 1931. The song was introduced by vocalist Aida Ward. Cab Calloway and his Orchestra were featured in the Cotton Club production. Later that year they were the first to record the song.

See the separate feature page:



I Love a Parade (Arlen, Koehler) – Lawrence Welk band and singers performed this song to open their New Year’s Eve show, 1979

Video to be replaced


I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues (Arlen, Koehler)

Victor Young Orchestra, Lee Wiley vocals, 1933


Billie Holiday – Session #36 New York, 20 April 1939 – Frank Newton & Café Society Band (Commodore) — Frank Newton (tp) Tab Smith (as) Kenneth Hollon, Stanley Payne (ts) Sonny White (p) Jimmy McLin (g) John Williams (b) Eddie Dougherty (d) Billie Holiday (v)

Note: The beginning of the track appears to be cut off, consequently the video is fifteen seconds shorter than the duration given at BillieHolidaySongs.com.



I’vArlen-Koehler-32-world on a stringe Got the World on a String (Arlen, Koehler)

The song was introduced by Aida Ward with the Cab Calloway Orchestra in the Cotton Club Parade of 1932; first recorded by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra
History by WICN.org in their “Song of the Week” pages:

In the depths of the Great Depression one of the most aggressively cheerful of jazz standards made its debut: “I’ve Got the World on a String.” Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote it for the Cotton Club Parade of 1932 revue. Allen Forte, in his book Listening to Classic American Popular Songs, said, “The mood of this joyous song stands in marked contrast to the situation that prevailed in the United States at the time it was composed and performed, a situation that affected almost everyone, excluding, perhaps, a select group that no doubt included the patrons of the Cotton Club and its proprietors.” From 1930 to 1934 Arlen and Koehler wrote songs for four revues at the Cotton Club, and each show had outstanding songs that went on to become hits, a remarkable achievement. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”, “I Love a Parade,” and “Stormy Weather” were among the several stellar songs they wrote for Cotton Club shows.

The Cotton Club did indeed seem to have “the world on a string” during the early years of the depression, but the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and the increasingly visible poverty of Harlem eventually created insurmountable problems for it and other mob-run uptown clubs. The club moved to midtown Manhattan in 1936, but high midtown rents, the rising cost of elaborate floor shows, changing tastes in jazz, and renewed federal attention to income tax evasion among New York’s nightclubs caused the Cotton Club to close permanently in 1940.

The Cotton Club boosted the careers of many black entertainers, including Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the bands of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford. Calloway’s band was featured in the 1932 revue, and he was the first to record “I’ve Got the World on a String.” It rose to eighteenth on the pop charts that year. In 1933 a recording by Bing Crosby with the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra peaked at nineteenth place on the charts. Louis Armstrong made a notable cover of the song that year as well. Later on, the song became associated with Frank Sinatra, and his 1953 recording with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra reached fourteenth place on the pop charts. “I’ve Got the World on a String” continues to be recorded by a new generation of jazz musicians, including Michael Bublé, Diana Krall and Robin McKell.

Louis Armstrong – 1933


Frank Sinatra – recorded 30 April 1953– arr. Nelson Riddle


Peggy Lee-1-e1

Peggy Lee – undated, 1950s ?


Michael Bublé – originally recorded for the 2007 album Call Me Irresponsible

live performance, occasion unknown



Separate feature pages:



1934-As Long as I Live-Cotton Club Parade (24th Ed.)-11934-As Long as I Live-Cotton Club Parade (24th Ed.)-2

Separate feature page:

Harold Arlen sings1934 Ill Wind (Arlen-Koehler) 24th Cotton Club Parade-d50-s3-c1a

Separate feature page:

  • Ill Wind (m. Harold Arlen, w. Ted Koehler)


1934 You're A Builder Upper, Life Begins At 8.40Ray Bolger, Luella Gear, Frances Williams, and Bert Lahr-- Life Begins At 8.40, 1934

Four songs from the Broadway musical Life Begins At 8:40 — Winter Garden Theatre (8/27/1934 – 3/16/1935) — music: Harold Arlen, lyrics: Ira Gershwin and E.Y. Harburg

You’re A Builder Upper

Leo Reisman and his Orchestra, with vocals by Harold Arlen – recorded on 27 July 1934 for the Brunswick label; issued on Brunswick 6941, c/w “What Can You Say In a Love Song”

MP3 (6.6 MB) audio file, from archive.org:


Ogg Vorbis (1.5 MB) audio file, from archive.org:


Fun To Be Fooled

Leo Reisman and his Orchestra, with vocals by Harold Arlen – recorded on 27 July 1934 for the Brunswick label; issued on Brunswick 6942, c/w Shoein’ the Mare

MP3 (7.0 MB) audio file, from archive.org:


Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block

Ella Fitzgerald — recorded on 2 August 1960, and released on the 1961 LP Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook


Shoein’ the Mare



Separate feature page:



The following two songs are from the 1937 production Hooray for What!

Buds Won’t Bud (Arlen, Harburg)

Judy Garland – 1940


Harold Arlen — from Volume 1 of the 1955 double album The Music of Harold Arlen, Walden Records 306 (Vol.1) & 307 (Vol.2)


Down With Love (Arlen, Harburg)

Lee Wiley, 1940


Barbra Streisand —  from Episode 9 of The Judy Garland Show, taped on 4 October 1963, broadcast 6 October 1963


Judy Garland – Episode 24 of The Judy Garland Show, taped on 23 February 1964 and aired on 15 March 1964


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