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Born: January 5, 1887, Birmingham, UK
Died: September 25, 1941 (age 54), Ipswich, Suffolk, UK
Clifford Grey was a prolific English songwriter who wrote lyrics for such musicals as Hit the Deck and The Three Musketeers after getting his start as an actor in 1907. Perhaps most famously he wrote the words for the 1916 song "If You Were the Only Girl in the World (and I were the only boy").
Grey began his career as a lyricist for musical comedies and revues in 1913 in England where his credits became ubiquitous. This early success as a songwriter led to him giving up acting altogether. His first try at writing a musical revue was titled "The Bing Boys Are Here" in 1916, which included the song "If You Were the Only Girl in the World" and was well enough received in London to get him to try an American version, "The Bing Boys on Broadway," which itself moved from New York back to London making him an important contributor to musical theater on both sides of the Atlantic. (Source: The New York Timesobituary, September 27, 1941.)
Between 1917 and 1933 he contributed to no less than thirty-three Broadway productions in which his collaborators included George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, J. Fred Coots, Jay Gorney, Johnny Green, Oscar Levant, Sigmund Romberg, and Rudolph Friml (See IBDB.) During the late Twenties and Thirties he wrote for the movies both in Hollywood and in England. In Hollywood he worked on films, among others, by Ernst Lubitsch including Love Parade, the first Maurice Chevalier / Jeanette McDonald film. Gary Marmorstein writes of the movie that "though its staging may appear creaky now, its spirit is young and its music sublime" (p. 43). The songwriters for the movie were Victor Schertzinger (music) and Grey (lyrics) and the songs they wrote included "Dream Lover" as well as several others.
During World War II, Grey did volunteer work for the war effort. He died from a German bomb blast in his home town of Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, September 21, 1941.
It's likely that Clifford Grey wouldn't have had a chance to write (really co-write with Leo Robin) one of his most well know lyrics if it hadn't been for John Philip Sousa, America's march king. Vincent Youmans wrote the music for what eventually would become the song "Hallelujah!" some ten years before it hit the boards in the Broadway show Hit the Deck. As William Zinsser tells it, Youman's talents were recoginized by Sousa who was bandmaster at a naval base just north of Chicago where Youmans was stationed during WWI. Youmans gave a melody to Sousa who liked it so much that soon it was being played at bases around the country.
Ten years later, remembering its success with America's sailors, Youmans resurrected [the melody] on Broadway for Hit the Deck." Titled Hallelujah!" and given a suitably exhultant lyric by [its lyricists] Leo Robin and Clifford Grey, it turned out to be no less popular with civilians and has been around ever since, its call to meeting hard to resist.
Sing Hal-le-lu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah!"
And you'll shoo the
Blues away . . .
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Master List of Great American Songbook Songwriters
Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.
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