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My wife asked me about a song she likes, When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful, which apparently she listens to on a Clapton CD, thinking I might be able to find some sheets for it.
So I go poking around on Wiki and the net, and learn the song was written by one Harry M. Woods (aka Henry), who I'd never heard of before. Turns out he wrote dozens of iconic songs in the 20's and 30's, including Red Red Robin, I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, and Side by Side.
Wiki starts his story with this:
Woods was born in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. He had no fingers on his left hand since birth. Nonetheless, Woods' mother, a concert singer, encouraged him to play the piano. Woods got his bachelor's degree at Harvard University, where he supported himself by singing in church choirs and giving piano recitals. After graduation, Woods settled in Cape Cod and began life as a farmer. He was drafted into the Army during World War I; it was there that he began cultivating his talent for songwriting. After his discharge, Woods settled in New York City and began his successful career as a songwriter.
As if that isn't colorful enough, I then found this on another site. The last line struck me as so funny that I just had to post it:
Harry M. Woods wrote an astonishing number of catchy, wholesome, sentimental and reassuring popular songs. Born without any fingers on his left hand, he nevertheless became a professional pianist and soon began composing irresistible ditties like "Paddlin' Madelin' Home" (1925) and "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along" (1926). Living Era's Harry Woods tribute album is chock-full of toothsome, tuneful treats; twenty historical recordings made between 1926 and 1945 by some of the most popular and endearing entertainers in the U.S. and the U.K. "Side by Side" turned out to be one of Paul Whiteman's most interesting novelties thanks to a cheerfully eccentric band arrangement and tidy vocals by the Rhythm Boys (Al Rinker, Harry Barris and Bing Crosby). Other pleasant singers include Connee Boswell, Cliff Edwards, Al Jolson, Annette Hanshaw, Rube Bloom, Frank Sinatra, Parker Gibbs (backed by the eternally gratifying Ted Weems Orchestra), and guitarist Nick Lucas who manages to sing all of the verses to "I'm Looking over a Four Leaf Clover." Paul Robeson's handling of "River Stay Away from My Door" is sobering, and Billie Holiday makes "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" sound like it was written especially for her. Fats Waller's unforgettably heartwarming rendition of "When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful" (a love song which was in fact composed with him in mind) is one of the very best records that he ever made. All of these pleasantries contrast dramatically with the life and temperament of the composer, who was an unhappy and dangerously volatile alcoholic. Legend has it that one evening, after consuming large quantities of hard liquor while performing at a popular nightclub, Woods got into a heated argument with a member of the audience. Tempers flared, blows were exchanged and soon the tussle had escalated into a vicious brawl. When the police got to the scene Woods had his adversary pinned to the floor and was throttling him with his right hand while bashing him in the face with the stump of his left. Bloody and disheveled, he was dragged off of his victim and was in the process of being handcuffed when a woman entered the club, looked him up and down and exclaimed, "Who is that horrible man?" Still seated at the bar, a friend of the composer proudly announced, "That's Harry Woods. He wrote 'Try a Little Tenderness.'"
Wow! It's sad that so many talented folks have led such difficult lives. I've played several of his songs without knowing any of his story. Thanks for the post.
That seems true. I came across this last night, sounds like what you're talking about.
Makes you wonder how much adversity is related to achievement.
Only in men's imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life. -Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
Wow, most of those songs I've known all my life! Probably that ages me, but so what - they're great songs. Some of them, I remember the sheet music being in the piano bench at my grandparents' house when I was a little kid. "When the red, red robbin" (Doris Day version) was one of my favourites on the radio when I was a little kid, though I think I've also heard the Al Jolson version somewhere. & Billie Holiday "What a little moonlight can do" is my favorite track on Lady Day Swings, on my iPod.
Bloody and disheveled, he was dragged off of his victim and was in the process of being handcuffed when a woman entered the club, looked him up and down and exclaimed, "Who is that horrible man?" Still seated at the bar, a friend of the composer proudly announced, "That's Harry Woods. He wrote 'Try a Little Tenderness.'"
Haha. You're right, Jim, that last line is a keeper. I'm going to choose to believe it actually happened that way.
"Wide awake, I can make my most fantastic dreams come true..." - Lorenz Hart