Vincent Youmans

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Vincent Youmans
Background information
Birth nameVincent Millie Youmans
Born(1898-09-27)September 27, 1898
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 5, 1946(1946-04-05) (aged 47)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Occupation(s)Broadway composer, Broadway producer, song publisher

Vincent Millie Youmans (September 27, 1898 – April 5, 1946) was an American Broadway composer and producer.[1]

A leading Broadway composer of his day, Youmans collaborated with virtually all the greatest lyricists on Broadway: Ira Gershwin, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Irving Caesar, Anne Caldwell, Leo Robin, Howard Dietz, Clifford Grey, Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu, Edward Heyman, Harold Adamson, Buddy DeSylva and Gus Kahn.[2] Youmans' early songs are remarkable for their economy of melodic material: two-, three- or four-note phrases are constantly repeated and varied by subtle harmonic or rhythmic changes. In later years, however, he turned to longer musical sentences and more rhapsodic melodic lines.[3] Youmans published fewer than 100 songs, but 18 of these were considered standards by ASCAP,[3] a remarkably high percentage.


Youmans was born in New York City, United States,[4] into a prosperous family of hat makers. When he was two, his father moved the family to upper-class Larchmont, New York.[5] Youmans attended the Trinity School in Mamaroneck, New York, and Heathcote Hall in Rye, New York. His ambition was initially to become an engineer, and he attended Yale University for a short time. He dropped out to become a runner for a Wall Street brokerage firm, but was soon drafted in the Navy during World War I, although he saw no combat.[4] While stationed in Illinois, he took an interest in the theater and began producing troop shows for the Navy.[4]

After the war, Youmans was a Tin Pan Alley song-plugger for Jerome H. Remick Music Publishers, and then a rehearsal pianist for composer Victor Herbert’s operettas.[2] In 1921, he collaborated with lyricist Ira Gershwin on the score for Two Little Girls in Blue, which brought him his first Broadway composing credit, and his first hit song "Oh Me! Oh My!", and a contract with T. B. Harms.[4] His next show was Wildflower (1923), with lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II, which was a major success.[4] His most enduring success was No, No, Nanette, with lyrics by Irving Caesar, which reached Broadway in 1925 after an unprecedented try-out in Chicago and subsequent national and international tours.[6] No, No Nanette was the biggest musical-comedy success of the 1920s in both Europe and the US and his two songs "Tea for Two" and "I Want to Be Happy" were worldwide hits.[4] Both songs are considered standards.[4] "Tea For Two" was consistently ranked among the most recorded popular songs for decades.[3]

In 1927, Youmans began producing his own Broadway shows. He also left his publisher TB Harms Company and began publishing his own songs.[4] He had a major success with Hit the Deck! (1927), which included the hit songs "Sometimes I'm Happy" and "Hallelujah".[4] His subsequent productions after 1927 were failures, despite the song hits they featured ("Great Day and "Without a Song" from Great Day (1929), "Time On My Hands" from Smiles (1930), and the title song from Through the Years).[4] His last contributions to Broadway were additional songs for Take a Chance (1932).[3]

In 1933, Youmans wrote the songs for Flying Down to Rio, the first film to feature Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a featured dancing pair.[4] His score contained "Orchids in the Moonlight", "The Carioca", "Music Makes Me", and the title song.[3] The film was a tremendous hit, and it revived the composer's professional prospects, though he never again wrote for Astaire/Rogers.

After a professional career of only 13 years, Youmans was forced into retirement in 1934 after contracting tuberculosis.[4] He spent the remainder of his life battling the disease.[4] His only return to Broadway was to mount an ill-fated extravaganza entitled Vincent Youmans' Ballet Revue (1943), an ambitious mix of Latin-American and classical music, including Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé. Choreographed by Leonide Massine.[4] The production lost some $4 million.[7]

He died of tuberculosis at age 47, in Denver, Colorado.[4] At the time of his death, Youmans left behind a large quantity of unpublished material. In 1970, Youmans was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1971, No, No Nanette enjoyed a notable Broadway revival starring Ruby Keeler, and choreographed by Busby Berkeley, which was widely credited with beginning the nostalgia era on Broadway.[8] In 1983, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[9]

Broadway musicals with music by Vincent Youmans[edit]

Films with music by Vincent Youmans[edit]



  1. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Youmans, Vincent". Baker's Biographical dictionary of musicians (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. pp. 1927–1928. ISBN 0028702409.
  2. ^ a b "Vincent Youmans | Songwriters Hall of Fame". Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bordman, Gerald. "Vincent Youmans", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy, accessed July 12, 2008
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 2752/3. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  5. ^ Suskin, Steven. "Vincent Youmans". Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers. Oxford University Press: 2000.
  6. ^ Dunn, Don (October 28, 1972). The Making of No, No Nanette. Citadel Press, Inc. ISBN 0806502657.
  7. ^ Vincent Youmans, in The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music (2001). Retrieved April 13, 2008
  8. ^ Bordman, Gerald (1982). Days to be Happy, Years to be Sad. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-503026-6.
  9. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Gets 10 New Members". The New York Times. May 10, 1983.
  10. ^ a b "Vincent Youmans: Film scores" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Songwriters' Hall of Fame, accessed January 12, 2013
  11. ^ Vincent Youmans at IMDb
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ The Broadway League. "The official source for Broadway Information". Retrieved May 21, 2012.

External links[edit]