Jay Gorney

On this date in 1894, songwriter Jay Gorney (né Abraham Jacob Gornetzsky) was born in Bialystok, Russia (now part of Poland). His family emigrated to the U.S. when he was 9, settling in Detroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1917 but practiced law only briefly before moving to New York City to write songs on Tin Pan Alley.

The composer of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” was a nonbeliever who ended up being blacklisted for his liberal views. He discovered Shirley Temple, for whom he wrote her first movie song “Baby, Take a Bow” (in “Stand Up and Cheer”). He wrote such standards as “You’re My Thrill” and “What Wouldn’t I Do for That Man?” plus hundreds of popular songs for theater, film and television. “We were not a religious family,” his widow Sondra Karyl Gorney said in a telephone interview. She wrote the 2005 biography Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Life of Composer Jay Gorney.

Gorney had a son with his first wife, Edelaine Roden, and two children with Sondra, whom he married in 1943 before a justice of the peace. Earlier that year, his first wife had married his collaborator, lyricist Yip Harburg. Gorney’s memorial was held at the New York Public Shakespeare Theater. D. 1990.

Freedom From Religion Foundation