E. Y. (Yip) Harburg, 84, the lyricist who wrote the words to such classic songs as "April in Paris," "It's Only a Paper Moon" and the "Wizard of Oz" songs "Over the Rainbow," died Thursday in an automobile accident on Sunset Boulevard.
Police said the accident occurred about 12:30 p.m. when the car Mr. Harburg was driving swerved into on-coming traffic and hit another vehicle head-on. He was killed instantly.Two persons in the other vehicle suffered minor injuries.
Mr. Harburg wrote the lyrics for a number of songs that became standards in a popular music -- "April in Paris, "It's Only a Paper Moon," "What Is There to Say?" "I Like the Likes of You," and "How are Things in Glocca Morra?"
The muscial shows and films he worked on were a string of hits -- "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934," "Cabin in the Sky" and "The Wizard of Oz." He won an Oscar for the lyrics he wrote for "The Wizard of Oz," which starred Judy Garland. Other songs that he and Harold Arlen, who wrote the music, composed for that famous 1939 movie were "We're Off to See the Wizard," "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead" and "If I Only Had a Brain."
Often, Mr. Harburg's creative efforts extended far beyond his skill as a lyricist. For the musical, "Bloomer Girl," he originated the plot and directed the original 1944 Broadway production, and was coauthor of the libretto for "Finian's Rainbow."
For four decades, Mr. Harburg, who lived in an apartment on Central Park West in New York City, matched words to the music of such composers as Vernon Duke and Burton Lane as well as with Arlen.
He was spry beyond his years and he could often be seen at Manhattan gatherings where songwriters were beng honored. He himself was to receive the Johnny Mercer Award -- named after the late lyricist -- at a dinner this Monday of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
Born on the Lower East Side of New York, Mr. Harburg worked as a lamplighter for the city and spent about six years in the electrical business before moving full time toward a career as a lyricist.
He said later he had "had my fill of this dreamy thing called business, and I decided to face reality by writing lyrics."
That was in 1929, the year of the great Wall Street crash and the start of the Great Depression, and one of his first was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
Mr. Harburg had two children by his first wife, Alice Richmond. In 1943, he married Edelaine Roden.