The Songs You Know, The Man You Don’t

You know at least one of his songs, but you more than likely don’t know his name. He was a major contributor to the great American songbook. He was an Academy Award winning lyricist. He was a human rights advocate. He wrote the lyrics to “Over the Rainbow” and all the iconic songs in The Wizard of Oz, also with hundreds of others including standards “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “April in Paris,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Known for the social commentary within his lyrics, as well as liberal sensibilities, he championed racial and gender equality and union politics at a controversial time with art and heart. His name was Yip Harburg and Salina residents will have the chance to hear his songs and intimate stories from two of his great-grandsons at an exclusive, one night only event.

“Yip penned words that have resonated across two centuries and every continent. His lyrics embodied the universal urge in the human spirit for personal and cooperate harmony and fulfillment,” said Aaron Harburg, who is currently producing a documentary titled, Song of the Century, which details the untold story of Yip’s creation of “Over the Rainbow” and the other songs from Oz.

“Yip’s work points people toward hope. He understood the human need for it. I want to carry on giving that hope,” David Harburg, an Ann Arbor based artist who has been working on revitalizing the songs by his great-grandfather.

The two will be in Salina to enlighten and inspire attendees with stories and some of Yip’s well known songs.

The evening will be hosted by nationally syndicated TV & radio film critic Ryan Jay. Inspired since childhood by his favorite film, The Wizard of Oz, Jay has become recognized as an Oz historian, interviewing the casts and filmmakers of many Oz films, publishing articles, and presenting multimedia lectures, celebrating the legacy of Oz, to audiences from around the world at comic cons, universities, theaters and museums. As a producer and director, Jay has worked on major pop culture programming for networks such as Bravo, Showtime, MTV, Nickelodeon, and others. He serves as director of Harburg’s Song of the Century documentary.

“Among the cumulative creative forces behind The Wizard of Oz, Yip Harburg stands out as one who helped connect emotional dots between the story, performer and song,” said Jay. “To use the phrase of another beloved Oz lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, whom also counts himself a fan of Yip’s, his legacy has changed us, “For Good.””

The event will be held at 7:00pm on Monday, December 4th, at the Salina Community Theater in the Sunflower Bank Financial Theatre (black box). The event is free and made possible by the Salina Community Theatre and J. Basil Dannebohm.

The group has a full schedule during their visit to Salina. Arriving on Saturday, they will spend the day meeting with their Song of the Century executive producer.

In October, Aaron Harburg and Jay appointed J. Basil Dannebohm as executive producer of, Song of the Century. This is Dannebohm’s first time serving in the executive producer role. A former state legislator and business consultant, Dannebohm has worked with an international clientele from a broad range of industry including: technology, real estate, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, religious and non-profit organizations, film festivals, tourism and entertainment venues. In addition to duties as executive producer of the film, Dannebohm is a writer and speaker, who is currently writing his first book.

“Basil demonstrated a love of ”Over the Rainbow” that was immediately palpable,” said Harburg. “His extensive expertise across multiple industries, especially in public relations and media, made him a perfect fit to ensure the project would come to fruition.”

The December 4th event will include a less known and rarely performed Christmas song written by Harburg entitled, “Who Says There Ain’t No Santa Claus.”

“The song was written for the Broadway musical, Flahooley, said David Harburg. “It’s a really catchy Christmas song that, frankly, needs to be revived and counted among our favorite Christmas carols.”

The Harburg brothers hope that attendees of the presentation find a little Christmas spirit in the music and message of their great-grandfather.

“The holidays are a special time for creating new memories,” said Jay. “Listening to the Harburg brothers share their stories and sing their great-grandfather’s songs will leave the audience with a joyous feeling, perfect for this time of year.”


The evening will be hosted by nationally syndicated TV & radio film critic Ryan Jay.

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