Razaf, Andy (originally, Razafinkeriefo, Andreamenentania Paul)

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Razaf, Andy (originally, Razafinkeriefo, Andreamenentania Paul)

Razaf, Andy (originally, Razafinkeriefo, Andreamenentania Paul ), American lyricist; b. Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 1895; d. North Hollywood, Calif., Feb. 3, 1973. Writing primarily for nightclub revues in Harlem, with occasional forays into Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, Razaf, with collaborators such as Fats Waller and Eubie Blake, wrote a series of jazz and pop standards, among them “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Black and Blue,” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” He also set lyrics to such Swing Era hits as “In the Mood” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”

Razaf’s father was a member of the royal family of Madagascar, his mother the daughter of the former U.S. consul to the country. Shortly before his birth, his mother was forced to return to America due to a French invasion; his father was killed in battle. Razaf’s family moved to the N.Y. area in 1900; he attended public school until the age of 16, then studied privately while working as an elevator operator in a Tin Pan Alley office building. At 18 he placed his first song in a Broadway revue: “Baltimo’,” for which he wrote both music and lyrics, was used in The Passing Show of 1913 (N.Y., July 24, 1913). This was, however, an isolated success; for the most part his work was rejected, and he was forced to earn a living in a series of menial jobs. He married Annabelle Miller, a housemaid, in April 1915. (The marriage broke up in the 1920s, though the couple never legally divorced; Mrs. Razaf died in 1958.) After World War I, Razaf wrote topical poetry for Harlem newspapers.

Razaf was the lyricist for the Broadway burlesque revue Joe Hurtig’s Social Maids, writing songs with composer Hughie Woolford. His “He Wasn’t B. in Araby” (music by Edgar Dowell) was used in the 1923 Plantation Revue. In March 1924 he appeared in The Creole Follies at the Club Alabam. The same year he made his radio debut, singing and playing the ukulele, and in 1925 he made his first recordings. He wrote the lyrics to music by J. P. Johnson for the revue Desires of 1927, which toured probably from the fall of 1926 into the winter of 1927. During this period Razaf and Waller sold songs outright on Tin Pan Alley without retaining credit. Unproven rumor suggests that among them was the hit “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” credited to Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields.

Razaf s first song to gain attention was the risqué “My Special Friend (Is Back in Town)” (music by Waller, lyrics also by Bob Schäfer), recorded by Ethel Waters and interpolated by her as a post-opening addition to the revue Africana (N.Y., July 11, 1927). Razaf and Waller then contributed a handful of songs to the musical Keep Shufflin’; (N.Y., Feb. 27, 1928), including the title song and “Willow Tree.” In September 1928, Razaf enjoyed two hit recordings of his songs, both with music by J. C. Johnson: “Louisiana” (lyrics also by Schäfer) by Paul Whiteman and His Orch. with a vocal by Bing Crosby, and “Dusky Stevedore” by Nat Shilkret and His Orch.

In February 1929, Razaf and Waller wrote the songs for Hot Feet, a revue at the Harlem nightclub Connie’s Inn. The club’s owners then produced an expanded version of the revue on Broadway under the name Connie’s Hot Chocolates. Running 219 performances, the show featured “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which was recorded by at least half a dozen artists, including Waller, who used it as his theme song, as well as Louis Armstrong, who performed it in the show. But the best-selling version was by Leo Reisman and His Orch. Also included was “Black and Blue,” a lament that has been described as the first African-American protest song. Razaf and Waller wrote a few new numbers for a revised version of Hot Feet at Connie’s Inn, resulting in the revue Load of Coal, which featured “Honeysuckle Rose” and “My Fate Is in Your Hands,” the latter a hit for Gene Austin at the end of the year.

Razaf wrote other songs during 1929 that became successful at the time or later. “S’posin”’ (music by Paul Denniker) was recorded by Rudy Vallée and was a hit in July, and “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?” (music and lyrics by Don Redman) was recorded by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in November, though a hit recording was 15 years away.

In 1930, Razaf collaborated with James P. Johnson on the songs for Kitchen Mechanic’s Revue at the Harlem nightclub Smalls’ Paradise, among them the witty “A Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid.” Later the same year he and composer Eubie Blake wrote the songs for the Broadway revue Blackbirds of 1930, which starred Ethel Waters. Louis Armstrong had a hit immediately with “Memories of You,” but the show ran only 62 performances, effectively ending Broadway’s interest in African-American revues.

Razaf enjoyed two hits in 1932: Louis Armstrong recorded “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” (music by Waller), a follow-up to “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” for a hit in June, and Cab Calloway scored with “Reefer Man” (music by J. Rüssel Robinson) in July. Calloway later performed the song in the film International House (1933), but Razaf’s first song to be placed in a motion picture was “If It Ain’t Love” (music and lyrics by Razaf, Redman, and Waller) in Okay America (1932). Razaf continued to write songs for nightclub revues at Connie’s Inn.

“Honeysuckle Rose” earned its first hit recording, albeit as an instrumental, in February 1933 in the hands of Fletcher Henderson and His Orch. In 1934, Waller signed a recording contract with RCA Victor as a singer/pianist and began to record prolifically, frequently drawing on his backlog of compositions with Razaf. As a result, “How Can You Face Me?” became a hit in October and “A Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid” in November. Razaf, meanwhile, was writing revues with Paul Denniker for the Grand Terrace Café in Chicago.

With the advent of the Swing Era in 1935, Razaf was in demand to fit lyrics to popular swing instrumentais. Andy Kirk and His Orch. got into the hit parade in the spring of 1936 with “Christopher Columbus” (music by Leon “Chu” Berry), for which Razaf had written words. Razaf also added lyrics to the swing standard “Stompin’ at the Savoy” (music by Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, and Edgar Sampson) and to the radio themes “Make Believe Ballroom” (music by Denniker) and “The Milkman’s Matinee” (music and lyrics by Razaf, Denniker, and Joe Davis) in 1936.

Without divorcing his long-estranged first wife, Razaf married Jean Blackwell, a librarian, on July 31, 1939. Later that year he set words to the big-band classic “In the Mood” (music by Joe Garland), though Glen Miller’s hit recording was an instrumental. Razaf’s lyrics were heard, however, on “A Lover’s Lullaby” (music by Frankie Carle and Larry Wagner), which was in the hit parade for Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orch. in May 1940.

In 1941, Razaf and Blake attempted to mount a Broadway musical, Tan Manhattan, but it closed after an out-of-town tryout and an engagement at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Razaf enjoyed a couple of hits in the early 1940s, as “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” (music and lyrics by Razaf and William Weldon) scored for Jimmie Lunceford and His Orch. in May 1942 and the King Cole Trio belatedly gave recognition to “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?” in November 1944. But for the most part Razaf lapsed into obscurity. His second marriage ended in divorce, and following his marriage to Dorothy Carpenter on July 16, 1948, he moved to Los Angeles. His career was virtually ended by an attack of tertiary syphilis in January 1951 that rendered him an invalid for the rest of his life. In 1956, after the release of the film biography The Benny Goodman Story,”Memories of You” became a Top 40 hit for the Benny Goodman Trio with Rosemary Clooney. After divorcing his third wife, Razaf married Alice Wilson on Valentine’s Day, 1963.

Razaf’s songs began to turn up more frequently in musicals and movies and on records shortly after his death in 1973, notably a recording of “In the Mood” by Bette Midler that reached the charts in January 1974 and the use of three of his songs in the Broadway revue Bubbling Brown Sugar (N.Y., March 2, 1976). But his real popular comeback was launched by the success of Ain’t Misbehavin’;, a revue dedicated to the music of Fats Waller, which ran for 1, 604 performances. From then on, Razaf’s songs became staples of such similar revues as Eubie! (N.Y., Sept. 20, 1978); One Mo’ Time (N.Y., Oct. 22, 1979); Blues in the Night (N.Y., June 2, 1982); and Black and Blue (N.Y., Jan. 26, 1989). Razaf’s work also became a surprising favorite among country music artists, as Willie Nelson named a movie and album Honeysuckle Rose in 1980 and Hank Williams Jr. scored a chart-topping country hit with “Ain’t Misbehavin’” in 1986.


(only Works for which Razaf was the primary, credited lyricist are listed; all dates refer to N.Y. openings unless otherwise indicated): MUSICALS : Joe Hurtig’s Social Maids (Sept. 25, 1922); Connie’s Hot Chocolates (June 20, 1929); Blackbirds of 1930 (Oct. 22, 1930); Tan Manhattan (Feb. 7, 1941); Ain’t Misbehavin’ (May 9, 1978). NIGHTCLUB REVUES : Hot Feet (Connie’s Inn; Feb. 28, 1929); Load of Coal (Connie’s Inn; 1929); Kitchen Mechanic’s Revue (Smalls’ Paradise; March 17, 1930); Hot Harlem (Connie’s Inn; Feb.28, 1929); Load ofCoal (Connie’s Inn; September 1932); Rhythm for Sale (Grand Terrace Café, Chicago; Jan. 31, 1934); Chicago Rhythm (Grand Terrace Café, Chicago; 1934); Connie’s Hot Chocolates of 1935 (Connie’s Inn; April 1935); Ubangi Club Follies (Ubangi Club; 1935); Round V Round in Rhythm (Ubangi Club; 1930s); Ubangi Club Follies (Ubangi Club; 1941).


B. Singer, Black and Blue: The Life and Lyrics of A. R .(N.Y., 1992).

—William Ruhlmann