Vincent Youmans' career began when he was four-years-old. He was born in New York to a hat chain owner and a housewife. His parents encouraged his musical genius when they gave him piano lessons at age four. His education took him to Trinity College, Heathcote Hall, and finally to Yale University where he studied engineering. With no interest in engineering, he dropped out of Yale. He then entered the U.S. Navy preparing musical shows for the troops. One of his songs was used by John Philip Sousa and renamed Hallelujah in 1927.
After his stint in the Navy, Youmans concentrated heavily on his musical career. His first Broadway hit Who's Who With You was performed in the 1918 show +From Broadway to Piccadilly. In 1920 his song, Country Cousin, was published and earned him a job at Harms Music as a pianist and songplugger. Youmans then worked with Victor Herbert, assisting him in rehearsing singers for his musicals. The experience he gained in his first two jobs made him one of many successful composers of his time.
In 1923 Youmans collaborated with Herbert Stothart for the musical +The Wildflower. Another show for the duo, +Mary Jane McKane, was unsuccessful in 1923 but garnered much musical success for Youmans under its 1925 title +No, No Nanette. It featured the songs Tea for Two and I Want to Be Happy. During the late '20s Youmans did several Broadway musicals including +Oh, Please, +Hit the Deck, +Rainbow and +Great Day.
Success came for Youmans with +Flying Down to Rio. The cast included such film legends as Gene Raymond, Delores Del Rio, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With hits such as Carioca, Music Makes Me, Flying Down to Rio and Orchids in the Moonlight, it is no wonder Youmans, along with Edward Eliscu and Gus Kahn, earned a 1935 Oscar nomination for Best Music in the film.
Unfortunately, in 1933 Youmans contracted tuberculosis and entered a sanatorium in Colorado. After a few years he was able to leave and parted to Louisiana where he began to compose again. In 1943 he opened +The Vincent Youmans Ballet Revue in Boston. The show was full of ballet, puppets, music and costumes. Not a rousing success, the show ended without playing New York City as Youmans planned.
In 1945 Youmans was forced to return to the Colorado sanatorium because of his failing health. At the age of 48 he died in Denver, Colorado. Through the Years was played at his funeral. A popular musical figure on the Broadway circuit, Vincent Youmans was also a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. ~ Kim Summers, Rovi
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