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Vintage sheet music for
"How About You?"
music by Burton Lane
words by Ralph Freed
from the 1941 movie Babes on Broadway
Born: May 1, 1907, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: February 13, 1973 (age 65), Los Angeles, California
Primary songwriting role: lyricist; also TV producer, organist, pianist, teacher, brother of Arthur Freed
Ralph Freed, shared a gift for writing lyrics with his older and more famous brother Arthur Freed. Ralph's songwriting career got a jump start when he supplied the lyrics to the Bing Crosby hit "Little Dutch Mill," which was number one for five weeks in 1934. Despite his successes as a producer, especially in TV, and a long list of song credits, he remains most well known for his collaboration with Burton Lane on the song "How About You?", written for the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland 1941 movie Babes on Broadway.
Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball state that "How About You?" was Freed's best lyric even if many artists couldn't resist the temptation to change his line in which the singer says "Franklin Roosevelt's looks / Give me a thrill" to, as Sinatra sings, "James Durante's looks," or as Rosemary Clooney sings "Frank Sinatra's looks."
(See Reading Lyrics, Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000, p. 401.).
Gary Marmorstein notes that of the Garland-Rooney musicals of the early forties, Babes on Broadway is "easier to sit through, less because of the script or [Busby} Berkeley's direction than because the songs are just better. With music by Burton Lane and lyrics by [Arthur] Freed's much younger bespectacled brother Ralph, 'How About You?' ('I love potato chips, moonlight and motor trips') is one of the cleverest, sweetest songs to come out of the movies."
And although older brother Arthur Freed was by far the more important figure in world of Hollywood musicals, Marmorstein prefers little brother Ralph when it comes to lyrics:
As a lyricist, [Arthur Freed] had had the touch of a business man. From "Singin' in the Rain" to "Good Morning," his words stroll through their clichés with a shrug; they're cued to cheerful, romantic sentiment ("You Are My Lucky Star," "All I Do Is Dream of You," ) without achieving much depth, or even cleverness. Freed's writing lacked the dazzle and specificity of his brother Ralph's lyrics for say, "How about You?" or "You Leave Me Breathless" (Marmorstein, p. 241, hard cover Ed.).
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