Tamar and Philip Springer Collaborate on “The Last Legacy of E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg”
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The coronavirus pandemic has affected different people in different ways. For Tamar Springer, it created an opportunity to work on a project with her dad, Philip, composer of the 1953 Christmas song “Santa Baby” and a longtime Palisadian.
The two have used this restrictive period to produce a 10-song CD with a six by nine-inch hardback book featuring album notes of songs written by “The Wizard of Oz” lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Philip titled “The Last Legacy of E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg.”
Harburg was a famous figure in American music history. In addition to writing all of the lyrics to “The Wizard of Oz,” including the Academy Award-winning “Over the Rainbow,” he wrote “April in Paris,” “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” along with countless other standards and Broadway shows.
Philip, now 94 years young, was only 24 when he first met Harburg (then 54) in 1950 and became close friends. Born in New York City in 1926, Philip moved to Pacific Palisades when Tamar was 6 years old. He is one of the last surviving composers from the famous Brill Building on 49th Street and Broadway, where many of the most iconic American songs were written in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
“He helped me get off the stool of awe that I was standing on in his presence,” Philip said of Harburg in a book he wrote about the Brill Building. “I was totally unknown, he was at the pinnacle of his fame. He said to me, ‘If we write together, always remember that we are equals, and when writing a song, I am as much an amateur as you are in each new song we write.”
During that first fateful meeting, Philip played Harburg his tunes for about an hour, and Harburg tried to get lyrics started for some of the songs—although it would be 21 years before they wrote together seriously.
“My dad was Yip’s final collaborator during the last years of his life and he was like a grandfather to me,” Tamar shared. “They wrote many beautiful songs together, and the book is a collection of stories about the songs and their unique songwriting collaboration.”
Tamar submitted the project to The Recording Academy (headquartered in Santa Monica) for Grammy Award consideration in the categories “Best Album Notes” and “Best Historical Album” in hopes of earning a nomination. The Historical category is for restored recordings, and Springer’s CD includes four tracks of Harburg singing.
“Unlike most of the awards, the Craft categories are decided by committee, not by a vote,” Tamar said. “So, for this field, the committee actually determines whether or not you’re nominated.”
On May 23, Spectrum News 1 aired a three-minute segment on the album. Tamar, 54, also made a promotional video.
The project served as a trip down memory lane for both father and daughter.
“Yip spent the last night of his life in our house,” Tamar recalled. “He recited a poem that night and it almost foreshadows his life. He died in a car crash on Sunset Boulevard the very next day (March 5, 1981), but I remember that he visited us all the time. He even made up bedtime stories for me.”
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Los Angeles, Tamar was in the midst of completing her passion project—a musical production of Philip’s “The Bells of Notre Dame,” based on the 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by French dramatist Victor Hugo.
“I had this whole production planned and produced, a performance was set, then we had to shut down,” she said. “Dad and I got this idea during the quarantine and it was a great thing to work on during that time. It was a three-month effort collecting photos in the closet, sorting through boxes of Yip memorabilia, including letters he wrote to my dad and a videotape of a performance they did together at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan for ‘Lyrics and Lyricists.’ Yip had done the first show in 1970 and this was another one he did 10 years later, with my dad on the piano.”
Tamar, also a third-degree black belt in Yoshukai Karate who trains and teaches at Gerry Blanck’s Martial Arts Center, is the executive director of Tamir Music, the publishing company that her dad established for his songs, of which he retained his share of copyrights. “Tamir” is half of her name and half of her sister’s name (Miriam).
“I went through that videotape and we picked out 10 songs,” said Tamar, who attended Palisades Charter Elementary, Paul Revere Charter Middle and Palisades High schools and lives in a condo down the street from her parents’ house north of the Alphabet Streets. “I recorded my dad telling stories in his own voice and it turned into a 30-page book.”
The songs Philip and Tamar chose for the CD are: “It Might Have Been,” “Edelaine,” “Hitchhikers,” “Wild Red Cherry River,” “Time, You Old Gypsy Man,” “Change of Sky,” “Love Comes in Many Different Colors,” “Drivin’ and Dreaming,’” “Almost,” and “Crazy Old World.”
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