Friday, April 11, 2008

Harry M. Woods, songwriter

Henry MacGregor Woods (November 4, 1896 - January 14, 1970) was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter and pianist. Born in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Woods' mother, a concert singer, encouraged him to play the piano, in spite of being born with no fingers on his left hand. His musical training would help when he attended Harvard University and supported himself there by singing in church choirs and giving piano recitals. After graduation, Woods settled on Cape Cod and began life as a farmer. He began cultivating his talent for songwriting while in the Army during World War I. After his discharge, Woods settled in New York and began his successful career as a songwriter.

According to legend, Woods once exchanged heated words with a man in a nightclub after consuming a large quantity of alcohol. The argument escalated into a physical fight with Woods pinning the man to the floor while hitting him with his right hand and bashing him in the face with the stump of his left hand. When police arrived at the club and arrested Woods, a woman entered the club and asked, "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'."

(Editor's note: I found this anecdote a couple of places on the internet, including Wikipedia. I first read it in Philip Furia and Michael Lasser's excellent book: America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley. If you like this website, you will love this book.)

"Try A Little Tenderness"
Words & Music by Harry M. Woods & Irving King
Performed by Otis Redding

"Side By Side"
Words & Music by Harry M. Woods
Performed by The Ames Brothers & The McGuire Sisters

"What A Little Moonlight Can Do"
Words & Music by Harry M. Woods
Performed by Billie Holliday

"When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along"
Words & Music by Harry M. Woods
Performed by Ethel Merman & Perry Como


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