Hyman Harry Zaritsky was born on 21 August 1907 in the Brooklyn (New York City) home of his parents, Max and Dora Zaritsky. He grew up in the Bronx (New York City) and graduated from the Bronx High School of Commerce. While in high school, he played roving center for a club football team called the Brownies.
Mr. Zaritsky was determined to be a poet, but his mother convinced him to become a lawyer. So he went to school for a pre-law degree. He chose West Virginia University so he could play football. When he showed up for football practice, the coach suggested he should try wrestling instead. After looking at the players in the locker room, Mr. Zaritsky decided to take the coach's advice; most football players were taller than 5'5" even then. He was captain of the freshman wrestling team, a magician in the Varsity Show, and an honor student. Unfortunately, family funds ran out so he left West Virginia and worked his way through Brooklyn Law School.
After earning his LLB, he limited his practice to closings for clients of his father, who was a realtor. The practice provided enough money and left time for writing. He gave up his practice once he started earning enough money as a lyricist.
When one of his friends bemoaned the lack of good lyrics for Broadway, Mr. Zaritsky became a lyricist.
In 1934, Mr. Zaritsky changed his last name to Zaret.
In the summer of 1939, he and a friend went to visit another friend, who was a counsellor at Camp Kee Wah on Lake Ellis in New York State. While there, Mr. Zaret met another counsellor named Shirley Goidel. He said he would marry her. She thought he was crazy and avoided him for several months. In the fall, he convinced his younger sister to be his "date" (complete with pseudonym) for a party that Shirley would attend. Hy and Shirley married 28 June 1940, and remained married until his death.
On 12 June 1945, Thomas Michael Zaret was born; Mr. Zaret wrote a parody of "One Meat Ball" as the birth announcement. On 28 July 1948, Robert Edward Zaret was born; Mr. Zaret wrote a parody of "Listen to the Green Grass Growing" as the birth announcement. Thomas died 14 June 1984 of a brain tumor; he is survived by his wife and son. Robert is pleased and proud to be reviving his dad's songs.
In 1959, Mr. Zaret bought a home from Otto Harbach after it was severely burned. That was the year The Platters' recording of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Otto Harbach lyricist, Jerome Kern composer) became a big hit.
Hy Zaret died 2 July 2007, one month shy of his 100th birthday. Many of his papers are now at The Archives of the Michael Feinstein American Songbook Initiative.Shirley died 29 January 2015.
In 1935, he wrote "Dedicated to You" with Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn. It became his first hit and is still a perennial jazz favorite, with recordings by Billy Eckstine, Carmen McRae and Shirley Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Tommy Dorsey, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, and others.
In 1941, three of Mr. Zaret's songs became hits. Ted Weems and his orchestra had a hit recording of "It All Comes Back to Me Now" (written with Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer); Frank Sinatra also recorded it. Jimmy Dorsey had a hit recording of "My Sister and I" (written with Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer). And Vaughn Monroe had a hit recording of "There I Go" (written with Irving Weiser).
In 1943, Mr. Zaret joined the Army. He and Frank Loesser were the two official songwriters for the U.S. Army Special Services. Other members of Special Services included Peter Lind Hayes, Jerry Livingston, Arnold Auerbach, Jose Limon. He wrote musical parodies for "Yank" magazine, and several of these were recorded on an album called "Strictly GI;" the picture shows Mr. Zaret and New York's Mayor La Guardia, with each holding a copy of the album. He wrote "Soldiers of God" (song of the Army chaplains); the official song for the WAC; "Song of the Army Nurse Corps;" "Saga of a Sad Sack" (with Frank Loesser); and other official songs. He also wrote English lyrics for "The Marseillase" (French National Anthem), "Song of the French Partisans" (recorded by Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez ), "Garibaldi War Hymn," Katyusha" (with musical adaptation by Lou Singer, recorded by Nat King Cole), and the Soviet Union's new anthem. Mr. Loesser, Mr. Zaret, and several others worked on 4 musicals called "Blueprint Specials" because they were sent to the troops as packages with script, instructions for rehearsals, props, and costumes. This picture shows a party for Mr. Zaret (center) at the Special Services office. The Treasury Department awarded him a silver medal for special work he did for them in bond drives and other activities.
After the war, Mr. Zaret continued his collaboration with Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer. They wrote 33 songs together, including "No Other Arms, No Other Lips" (recorded by The Chordettes and Slim Whitman); "You'll Never Get Away" (recorded by Louis Prima with Gia Maione, Sam Butera & The Witnesses, and Teresa Brewer); "So Long For A While" (theme song for "Lucky Strike Hit Parade" for about 15 years); and the two songs ("It All Comes Back to Me Now" and "There I Go") mentioned above.
Mr. Zaret's most prolific collaboration was with Lou Singer. Their first hit was "One Meatball." In 1944, the Andrews Sisters had a hit recording, Josh White's recording sold a million copies, Josh White featured it at Cafe Society Uptown while Jimmy Savo featured it at Cafe Society Downtown, and Josh White and his son ( Josh White Jr.) recorded it for Armed Services Radio. Dave Van Ronk has also recorded it. In 1947, they wrote Patrick Henry and the Frigate's Keel: A Musical Legend by Howard Fast, based on the novel by Howard Fast. In 1958, they wrote a set of 4 songs ("Radio Free Europe", "Crusade for Freedom", "March of the Truth Dollars" and "Freedom is not Free") for the Crusade for Freedom fund raising campaign for Radio Free Europe. They also wrote "I Spoke to Jefferson at Guadalcanal;" "Israel's Freedom Ballad;" "My Lily and My Rose;" "The Lass with the Delicate Air" (recorded by Josh White, and a variation on an old English song by Michael Arne); "Listen to the Green Grass Growing;" "Atom and Evil" (recorded by The Golden Gate Quartet); "On This Day;" "Young and Warm and Wonderful" (recorded by Gene Pitney, Tony Bennett, James Darren, and Eddie Adams Jr.); and hundreds of Little Songs, including Ballads for the Age of Science and It Could be a Wonderful World.
From 1948 to 1951, Mr. Zaret was a writer for the CBS radio show Sing it Again.
In 1954, Mr. Zaret received a phone call from Alex North. Mr. North had just completed the score for a movie, and needed a lyric for the theme song. Mr. Zaret initially declined because he was too busy overseeing the painting of his house. Mr. North said the movie was about a model low-security prison, and Mr. Zaret agreed. The movie was called "Unchained" and the new song was called "Unchained Melody." The movie came out in 1954, and is forgettable. But several recordings of the song were hits that year and the song received an Oscar nomination (the winner was "Three Coins in a Fountain" from the movie "Three Coins in the Fountain"). In 1990, the movie Ghost used a 1965 recording by The Righteous Brothers. In 2011, Ghost: The Musical retold the same story as the movie. The song has been recorded by thousands of artists, and many recordings have been hits. In 2007, it received ASCAP's Towering Song award. Unchained Melody Publishing, LLC has been the publishing administrator for the song since 2012.