Gus Kahn

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Gus Kahn
Gus Kahn.jpg
Gus Kahn
Background information
Birth name Gustav Gerson Kahn
Born (1886-11-06)November 6, 1886
Koblenz, German Empire
Died October 8, 1941(1941-10-08) (aged 54)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupations songwriter, lyricist
Associated acts Richard A. Whiting
Walter Donaldson
Isham Jones

Gustav Gerson Kahn (November 6, 1886 – October 8, 1941) was an American lyricist.

Biography[edit]

Kahn was born in Koblenz, Germany, in 1886. The family emigrated to the United States and moved to Chicago in 1890. After graduating from high school, he worked as a clerk in a mail order business before launching one of the most successful and prolific careers from Tin Pan Alley. Kahn married Grace LeBoy in 1916 and they had two children, Donald and Irene.

In his early days, Kahn wrote special material for vaudeville. In 1913 he began a productive partnership with the well-established composer Egbert Van Alstyne, with whom he created several notable hits of the era, including "Memories" and, along with Tony Jackson, "Pretty Baby." Later, he began writing lyrics for composer and bandleader Isham Jones. This partnership led to one of Kahn's best-known works, "I'll See You in My Dreams," which became the title of a movie based on his life, starring Danny Thomas as Kahn and Doris Day as his wife, Grace LeBoy Kahn.

Throughout the 1920s, Kahn continued to contribute to Broadway scores such as Holka Polka (1925), Kitty's Kisses (1926), Artists and Models (1927), Whoopee! (1928), and Show Girl (1929). He went on to write several movies, mainly for MGM.

By 1933, Kahn had become a full-time motion picture songwriter, contributing to movies such as Flying Down to Rio, Thanks a Million, Kid Millions, A Day at the Races, Everybody Sing, One Night of Love, Three Smart Girls, Let's Sing Again, San Francisco, Naughty Marietta, and Ziegfeld Girl.

He also collaborated with co-lyricist Ira Gershwin and with some of the finest composers, including Grace LeBoy Kahn (his wife), Richard A. Whiting, Buddy DeSylva, Al Jolson, Raymond Egan, Ted Fio Rito, Ernie Erdman, Neil Moret, Vincent Youmans, George Gershwin, Harry Akst, Harry M. Woods, Edward Eliscu, Victor Schertzinger, Arthur Johnston, Bronisław Kaper, Jerome Kern, Walter Jurmann, Sigmund Romberg, and Harry Warren, though his primary collaborator was Walter Donaldson.

Kahn died in Beverly Hills, California, on October 8, 1941. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

His catalog contained some of the greatest collections of songs from the first half of the 20th century, and it is for this reason that he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, nearly 30 years after his death. He was survived by his son, songwriter and musician Donald Kahn, who died at the age of 89 on April 11, 2008, in Beverly Hills, California.

Gus Kahn's most famous songs include: "My Buddy" (1922) with music by Walter Donaldson, "It Had To Be You" (1924) with music by Isham Jones, "Side by Side" (1927) with music by Harry M. Woods, and "Makin' Whoopee" (1928) with music by Walter Donaldson. Kahn was also the lyricist for the Ted Healy/Three Stooges short film Beer and Pretzels (1933), with music by Al Goodhart.

Legacy[edit]

Kahn's papers are housed at the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative. A collection guide for his papers can be found here.

Selected songs[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Donaldson, Walter and Gus Kahn. Vocal Selections from Whoopee!: A Musical Comedy. S.l., U.S.A.: Macmillan, 1979. OCLC 159410131
  • Ewen, David. American Songwriters: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. New York : H.W. Wilson, 1987. ISBN 0-824-20744-0 OCLC 14357785
  • Furia, Philip. American Song Lyricists, 1920-1960. Detroit : Gale Group, 2002. ISBN 0-787-66009-4 OCLC 50004668
  • Kahn, Gus. I'll See You in My Dreams. Warner Bros. Publications, 1989. OCLC 650149287
  • Kahn, Gus, Bronislaw Kaper, and Walter Jurmann. To-Morrow Is Another Day. New York: Robbins Music Corp, 1937. OCLC 76656495
  • Whorf, Michael. American Popular Song Lyricists: Oral Histories, 1920s-1960s. Jefferson, NC : McFarland, 2012. ISBN 0-786-46538-7 OCLC 761369338

External links[edit]