Arts & Events

Press Release: A Tribute to Lyricist & Human Rights Activist Yip Harburg: the Man Who Put the Rainbow in “The Wizard of Oz”

From Beth Sweeney, JCC
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 08:56:00 PM

Lehrhaus Judaica and The Berkeley Jewish Music Festival are co-sponsoring a tribute and exhibit honoring lyricist and human rights activist Yip Harburg. It takes place at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, auditorium, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkley on Sunday, Jan. 27th from 2::00 to 4:00 p.m. Information and tickets ($10 to $15) 1-800-838-300 or or

Harburg penned the words to the Oscar-winning song the American Film Institute ranked number 1 of its 100 Greatest Film Songs: “Over the Rainbow” as well as the lyrics for the entire score of “The Wizard of Oz”. He also wrote the lyrics, and co-wrote the book for the Broadway musical “Finian’s Rainbow”, the ballads “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “April in Paris”, and the Depression era anthem “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”  

With the support of a grant and rare archival material from The Yip Harburg Foundation, Musical theatre historian, Bonnie Weiss will present the fascinating story of this legendary lyricist with rare film and video footage of Harburg telling colorful stories about his songs and performing them with style and panache. Among the other entertainers featured in these clips are Groucho Marx, Judy Garland, Burt Lahr, Ray Bolger, Barbara Cook and Audra McDonald. 

In addition, Bonnie will show scenes unavailable to the public taken from home movies of Yip cavorting with George & Ira Gershwin and composer Harold Arlen. 

An added bonus is a lobby video exhibit of excerpts from Yip’s 1979 Sixty Minutes interview (when he was 83) with Morley Safer plus two interviews conducted by his daughter-in -law and musical theatre educator, Deena Rosenberg Harburg. In one of them he sings some of his unpublished tunes (including a tribute to Jimmy Durante.). The exhibit also includes a slide show of the sheet music covers of 71 of his songs. 

Harburg’s outspoken commitment to supporting human rights, world peace and social justice ended him on the infamous Hollywood blacklist during the Senator Joseph McCarthy era.. Yet the songwriter/librettist continued to use his creativity to give voice to the downtrodden. Weiss will give examples of how Harburg expressed these convictions in lyrics filled with wit, irony and poignancy. A new biography entitled, “Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist” by Harriet Hyman Alonso thoroughly examines the roots of Yip’s literary gifts and social activism. 

The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay is also hosting a sing-along showing of the 1939 film Classic “The Wizard of Oz” on January 20th at 2:00 p.m. 

Relevant websites  

Event Description: 

Bonnie Weiss’s bio: 

Berkeley Jewish Music Festival 

Brown paper tickets: 

Berkeley Jewish Music Festival Sing-along showing of “The Wizard of Oz´: