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IN-DEPTH
SONG HOMECOVER VERSIONSYOUR VIEWS
"Lullaby of Broadway"
Doris Day
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Doris Day

Harry Warren and Al Dubin's hymn to New York inspired one of Busby Berkeley's most lavish screen numbers and is one of the most popular songs passed down from the Hollywod Musical era.

Harry Warren began working with the lyricist Al Dubin in 1932, it was to be a long and fruitful relationship. Their first collaboration, 42nd Street, saved theWarner Brothers Studios from financial ruin. Despite his success in Hollywood, Harry took years to get used to living there, so when Al Dubin wrote the lyrics to "Lullaby of Broadway" it was with Harry's love of New York in mind.

Harry Warren
"I never liked Hollywood - but I got used to it."


This ode to New York's Great White Way appeared in the film Gold Diggers of 1935 and won Warren the first of his 3 Oscars. But before the song got into the picture there was a disagreement with the studio boss Jack Warner. He liked the melody but hated the lyrics and told the composer they had to be changed. However, Harry Warren refused and stood firm.

Harry Warren
"Mr Warner, I said, but you're destroying the song."


"Lullaby of Broadway" became one of Busby Berkeley's most lavish numbers on film. The song follows a day, or rather a night, in the life of a "Broadway Baby". The Manhatten skyline at night provides a backdrop to a sequence of high life, love and finally death. Hordes of tap dancers swell the scene and caused some controversy at the time. Some felt the long lines of marching hoofers with arms raised looked like one of Hitler's rallies. There was also a row with Al Jolson when he tried to take the song for use in his new film but Busby was keeping it for Gold Diggers in 1935.

Harry Warren
" ... he can't have that song, they wrote it for my picture."


This song harks back to the Barnum & Bailey atmosphere of "Alexander’s Ragtime Band". The jazzy C verse melody falls on the upbeat. The writing is confident and easy-going, with the verse theme simply repeated a fourth up (F maj). The chorus tune (again in F) is slow, and sits on the downbeat. But the "Lulling" doesn’t last long, as a witty descending ragtime sequence brings us back full circle.
Dominic King


Before long everyone wanted to record "Lullaby of Broadway". Bob Crosby and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, Little Jack Little, Reginald Forsythe and His Orchestra, Hal Kemp and His Orchestra with Bob Allen, Chick Bullock and His Orchestra all had hits in 1935 with the song.

It was revived in 1951 when Doris Day and Gene Nelson appeared in a musical of the same name. History came full circle when, 41 years after she sang in the original film, actress Winifred Shaw had a British hit in 1976.

Your comments.... the noisiest lullaby in motion picture history ...


Russell Davies

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