Al Dubin

Wrote Keep Young and Beautiful as performed by Annie on Diva

Al Dubin is mostly remembered today as part of the Dubin and Warren team. One of our most prolific lyricists, began his career in 1917 and produced hit lyrics until his death. While his chief collaborator was Harry Warren, he also wrote lyrics for several other composers, including Jimmy McHugh. His family fled Russia and went to Zurich, where Al was born in 1891, and then came to America and settled in Philadelphia in 1893. His father was a medical doctor while his mother was a dedicated science teacher. Neither wanted Al to pursue a career in music. By age 14, the young Dubin was 'cutting' his classes at school to see Broadway shows, and to hang about West 28th Street, the 'Tin Pan Alley' district, where he would try to sell special material to vaudeville entertainers. He became associated with the Witmark music company, and worked with them for many years. Dubin chose to complete his high school at a private institution, Perkiomen Seminary, located 40 miles from his home and hardly appropriate for a Jew. He excelled in athletics; a captain of the football team, track and basketball star. His love of alcohol, girls, and nights out often resulted in suspensions. Just a few days before graduation, he was expelled from the Seminary. These acts of irresponsibility characterized Dubin's life. He was a heavy drinker and a glutton. At times, he packed 300 pounds into his 5 foot 9 inch frame. His daughter has written that at one dinner, after completing a very hearty meal, he proceeded to regurgitate so that he could partake of another such meal. He was 25 years old when his first successful song "Twas Only an Irishman's Dream" was published in 1916. But, he had published two inconsequential songs in 1909. During WW I, he sang in an overseas entertainment unit. After the war, he worked as a bartender while trying to find fame as a lyricist. In 1925, he had his first big hit, "A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You" sung by Gertrude Lawrence in "Charlot's Revue." His daughter has said that inspiration for the title was the line from an Omar Khayyam's poem "A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine, and Thou Beside Me in the Desert". By 1926, he was writing some music to promote the silent films. In 1929, Warner Bros signed him to write for their film, GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY. Dubin went on to write the lyrics for all of the five 'Gold Diggers' that the Warner Brothers Studios released. Dubin's daughter has said that in 1927, Dubin penned a lyric, for a song he called "Among My Souvenirs", on the back of a gas bill. She recalled that "He was in debt, and needed quick cash to get a small stake in a poker game, and sold that lyric to Edgar Leslie for $25..." Dubin's name never appeared on the lyric. The credits on the published song read "Words by Edgar Leslie and music by Horatio Nichols". (Nichols was a pseudonym for an English songwriter/publisher.) This tune was introduced first in England by the Jack Hylton Orchestra, and later in the U.S. by Paul Whiteman. His daughter recalls that Al sold many of his lyrics in the same way for $5 to $50 dollars. Joe Burke was his collaborator on the first films. In 1932, Warner's signed Harry Warren. Dubin and Warren provided Warner's with more than 60 hit songs over the next six years. In 1938, the Warren and Dubin partnership ended. (GOLD DIGGERS IN PARIS and GARDEN OF THE MOON were their last two films.) Dubin returned to Broadway where he collaborated with Jimmy McHugh. In 1939, he added lyrics to Victor Herbert's instrumental "Indian Summer". During WW II, he worked with producer Sol Lesser on the screen musical STAGE DOOR CANTEEN. Al Dubin died at age 53, in February 1945, when he succombed to barbiturate poisoning and pneumonia. The Jewish boy from Philadelphia received the last rites of the Catholic church, for he had converted when he married Helene McClay, a blond showgirl. He was later inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

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