Gus Kahn

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About Gus Kahn

Prolific American pop lyricist Gus Kahn is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame because of his work for Broadway and Hollywood musicals throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Coblenz, Germany, on November 6, 1886, Kahn came to the U.S. with his parents in 1891 and grew up in Chicago, IL. Kahn started composing not long after high school, but with few successes. While working as a clerk in a mail order business, Kahn wrote for vaudeville performers and got his first published song in 1906, "My Dreamy China Lady." Although following hits were few and far between at first, Kahn experienced increasing success over the next 15 years and by the '20s was writing lyrics for numerous musicals, yielding a very long list of hit songs. Kahn's first break came while writing with composer Egbert VanAlstyne. After working with VanAlstyne, Kahn spent the '20s writing hits and teamed alternately with composers Walter Donaldson and Isham Jones. Kahn and Donaldson wrote many hits during the early '20s and gained acclaim for their 1928 score for Whoopee! Kahn married composer Grace LeBoy and also collaborated with her on songs. In his prime, Kahn averaged around eight hit songs per year. These included "Ain't We Got Fun?" (1921), "My Buddy," "Toot Toot Tootsie" (1922), "I'll See You in My Dreams," "It Had to Be You" (1924), "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" (1925), "Side by Side" (1927), "Love Me or Leave Me," "Makin' Whoopee" (1928), and many more. Music for the film Ziegfeld Girl (1941) was Kahn's last work. He wrote songs for many films -- mostly for MGM studios -- including the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (1937) and Clark Gable films such as Idiot's Delight (1939). Over the years, Gus Kahn collaborated with Al Jolson, George & Ira Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg, Buddy DeSylva, and many more. Kahn was portrayed by actor Danny Thomas in the 1951 movie based on his music and life, I'll See You in My Dreams. ~ Joslyn Layne

Coblenz, Germany
November 6, 1886
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