Harry M. Woods

Harry M. Woods
Birth name Henry MacGregor Woods
Born (1896-11-04)November 4, 1896
Origin North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Died January 14, 1970(1970-01-14) (aged 73)
Glendale, Arizona , U.S.A.
Occupation(s) Songwriter

Henry MacGregor "Harry" Woods[1] (November 4, 1896 – January 14, 1970) was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter and pianist.


Early life

Woods was born in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Despite the fact that he was born with no fingers on his left hand, Woods' mother, a concert singer, encouraged him to play the piano.[2] Woods earned his Bachelor's degree at Harvard University, supporting himself by singing in church choirs and giving piano recitals. After graduation, he settled in Cape Cod and began life as a farmer. He was drafted into the Army during World War I; it was there that he began cultivating his talent for songwriting. After his discharge, Woods settled in New York City and began his successful career as a songwriter.[3]


Woods' first songwriting success came in 1923 with the song "I'm Goin' South", written with Abner Silver, and a hit song in 1924 for Al Jolson. The same year, "Paddlin' Madelin Home" was published with words & music by Woods.

By 1926, Woods was an established songwriter on Tin Pan Alley, and would become legendary with his new song, "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)". The song was an instant hit for singers such as "Whispering" Jack Smith and Cliff Edwards. It was Al Jolson though who had the most success with his recording of the song. The song was recorded in 1953 by Doris Day, and again achieved considerable success on the charts.

In 1929, Woods began contributing songs to Hollywood musicals such as The Vagabond Lover, A Lady's Morals, Artistic Temper, Aunt Sally, Twentieth Century, Road House, Limelight, It's Love Again, Merry Go Round of 1938, and She's For Me. In 1934, he moved to London, where he lived for three years and worked for the British film studio Gaumont British, contributing to the films Jack Ahoy and Evergreen .[3]

While Woods usually wrote both words and music for his songs, he also collaborated with Mort Dixon, Al Sherman, Howard Johnson, Arthur Freed, Rube Bloom and Gus Kahn. Alone, and with his collaborators, he wrote "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", "I'm Goin' South", "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By", "Just a Butterfly that’s Caught in the Rain", "Side by Side", "My Old Man", "A Little Kiss Each Morning", "Heigh-Ho, Everybody, Heigh-Ho", "Man From the South", "River Stay 'way from My Door", "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain", "We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye", "Just an Echo in the Valley", "A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet", "You Ought to See Sally on Sunday", "Hustlin' and Bustlin' for Baby", "What a Little Moonlight Can Do", "Try a Little Tenderness", "I'll Never Say 'Never Again' Again", "Over My Shoulder", "Tinkle Tinkle Tinkle", "When You've Got a Little Springtime in Your Heart", "Midnight, the Stars and You", and "I Nearly Let Love Go Slipping Through My Fingers".

Personal life

Despite a successful career composing mostly upbeat and popular songs, Woods' temperament was in sharp contrast to the songs he wrote and composed. He was reportedly a dangerous and volatile alcoholic. 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 songwriter's proudly announced, "That's Harry Woods. He wrote 'Try a Little Tenderness'."[2]


Around 1945, Woods retired and moved to Glendale, Arizona where he died on January 14, 1970 when he was struck by a car right outside his house.[3]

Selected filmography


External links

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