Birth of Ralph Blane, 1914
This week on Oklahoma Journeys we attempt to take our minds off the summer heat and drift off to the cooler temperatures of the Christmas holidays. Ralph Uriah Hunsecker entered this world in 1914 in Broken Arrow. Twenty years later, he would create something that most of us hold near and dear today. We're saying happy birthday to little Ralphy this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center
From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.
Although unfortunately not a household name, Ralph Blane remains one of America's most prolific and successful composers. It was in of this week in 1914, on July 26 in Broken Arrow, that Ralph Blane was born to Tracy and Florence Hunsecker. Young Ralph would later change his name to Blane in order to better fit on theater marquees. After attending school in Broken Arrow and Tulsa Central High School, Blane went on to Northwestern University and studied music in New York City.
Following his schooling Blane began collaborating with a number of composers and lyricists. The first well-known tune composed by Blane, a collaboration with Harry Warren, was the football tune "Buckle Down Winsocki." For years Blane along with various lyricists cranked out timeless tin-pan alley tunes and music for dozens of musicals. "Clang, Clang Clang Went the Trolley," is a well known number of Blane's, as is music from Broadway, musicals, movies, and television including Meet Me in St. Louis, Sugar Babies, My Dream is Yours, and The Girl Most Likely. Blane spent most of his professional life in New York and worked continuously with such people as Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Mickey Rooney, Doris Day, and Judy Garland.
At the time of his death in 1995 Blane had more than five hundred songs registered to his name. His last professional work was as the lyricist for the music for the movie Home Alone in 1990. Of all the songs and lyrics written by Blane perhaps none is more famous than the Christmas classic, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Originally written as a part of the score for Meet Me in St. Louis and sung for the first time by Judy Garland, the song has since taken on a life of its own. The song has an innocence about it that sets it apart from other holiday songs. It's not talking about presents or gift-giving, and it's not blaring out religious messages, it's just saying, have a merry little Christmas.
The song, as simple as it is, has gone through some controversial changes over the years. Frank Sinatra on his version changed the original line, "We'll muddle through somehow," to "High upon the highest bow," while James Taylor's version remains true to Blane's original creation. Regardless of how you sing it, it's hard to deny the fact that "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" has embedded itself in the various layers of our popular culture. The next time you hear it, give a little thanks to Ralph Blane of Broken Arrow. It's his birthday this week.
You can learn more about Oklahomans in the arts by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma History Center is open Monday thru Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.