1898-09-27

VINCENT YOUMANS, American composer and producer, born (d. 1946) Youmans was born in New York City and worked as a runner for a Wall Street brokerage firm. He was drafted to fight in WWI. He took an interest in the theater when he produced troop shows for the Navy. After the war he was a Tin Pan Alley song plugger and a rehearsal pianist, and 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, was No, No, Nanette, with lyrics by Irving Caesar. After Oh Please, Hit the Deck, Rainbow and Take a Chance, his career faded, in part due to heavy drinking.

Youmans was painfully aware that many of his fellow songwriters ended up impoverished, and he was determined to avoid that fate. He spent a substantial amount of his songwriting royalties on life insurance policies, intending to collect on the insurance if his songwriting talents ever failed. Eventually, when he decided to retire and collect his insurance, he learned that the insurance companies would not pay off unless Youmans was physically incapable of earning a living: as long as his songs were performed or published, Youmans would not be deemed incapacitated. Consequently, in the mid-1930s, Youmans ceased to work professionally. He continued to write songs but did not submit them for performance, choosing to accumulate them as unpublished manuscripts.

In his last years, after collecting most of his insurance money, Youmans longed for the limelight again. An attempted comeback with a ballet revue in 1943 was a commercial and artistic failure. The two hit songs from No, No, Nanette, “Tea for Two” and “I Want to be Happy” are considered standards.