He dropped out to become a runner for a Wall Street brokerage firm before he was drafted to fight in World War I. He took an interest in the theatre when he produced troop shows for the Navy. After the war, he was a Tin Pan Alley song plugger for the TB Harms Company and then as a rehearsal pianist for famed composer Victor Herbert’s operettas. No, No, Nanette was the biggest musical-comedy success of the 1920s in both Europe and the USA and his two songs "Tea for Two" and "I Want to Be Happy" are considered standards. From 1927, Youmans also produced his own shows.
He had another major success with Hit the Deck! (1927; including ‘Hallelujah’), but his subsequent productions were failures, though many of their songs remain popular. His last contributions to Broadway were some songs for Take a Chance (1932). Youmans collaborated with the greatest songwriters on Broadway: Herbert Stothart, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Irving Caesar, Anne Caldwell, Leo Robin, Clifford Grey, Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu, Edward Heyman, Harold Adamson, Mack Gordon, Buddy De Sylva and Gus Kahn. He collaborated with lyricist Ira Gershwin on the score for Two Little Girls in Blue, which won wide acclaim. His next show, with lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II, was Wildflower.
His most enduring success, however, was No, No, Nanette, with lyrics by Irving Caesar. Youmans’s early songs are remarkable for their economy of melodic material: two-, three- or four-note phrases are constantly repeated and varied by subtle harmonic or rhythmic changes. In later years, however, apparently influenced by Jerome Kern, he turned to longer musical sentences and more free-flowing melodic lines. Youmans was forced to retire in 1934, after a professional career of only 13 years, only returning to Broadway to mount the ill-fated extravaganza The Vincent Youmans Ballet Revue (1943), an ambitious mix of Latin-American and classical music, including Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe. Choreographed by Leonide Massine, it lost some $4 million. More than any of his contemporaries, he made constant re-use of a limited number of melodies; he published fewer than 100 songs, but 18 of these were considered standards by ASCAP. He died of tuberculosis in Denver, Colorado.
At his death, Youmans left behind a large quantity of unpublished material. In 1970, Youmans was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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