Ballard MacDonald

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Tin Pan Alley lyricist Ballard MacDonald was born October 15, 1882, in Portland, OR, and later moved to New York to seek a songwriting career. Working for the J. Fred Helf publishing company, MacDonald…
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Tin Pan Alley lyricist Ballard MacDonald was born October 15, 1882, in Portland, OR, and later moved to New York to seek a songwriting career. Working for the J. Fred Helf publishing company, MacDonald wrote lyrics for a song called "Play That Barber-Shop Chord" in 1910, which became a hit with revised lyrics when it was sung in The Ziegfeld Follies by vaudeville star Bert Williams. MacDonald, however, was not properly credited as a writer, and successfully sued Helf for 37,500 dollars, which put the company out of business. MacDonald subsequently worked with composer Harry Carroll on such songs as "On the Mississippi" (1912), "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1912, based on the million-selling novel), and "It Takes a Little Rain With the Sunshine to Make the World Go Round." His next profitable partnership was with James Hanley, which produced the 1917 hit "(Back Home Again In) Indiana," a tune inspired by Paul Dresser's "On the Banks of the Wabash." The following year, MacDonald co-wrote the lyrics to Hanley's "Three Wonderful Letters from Home" with Joe Goodwin, and set words to Mary Earl's "Beautiful Ohio," which was later adopted as Ohio's official state song. In the early '20s, MacDonald turned his attention to Broadway revues, which in 1924 brought him his most notable musical collaborator in George Gershwin; MacDonald and Buddy DeSylva co-wrote the lyrics to Gershwin's "Somebody Loves Me," featured in the musical George White's Scandals.

In 1926, MacDonald teamed up with Walter Donaldson to write songs for the Broadway show Sweetheart Time, and also worked on the stage and film adaptations of the English show Battling Butler, which in its screen incarnation starred Buster Keaton. Henceforth, MacDonald also handled the book for many of the musicals to which he contributed songs. His songs also began popping up in movies, most notably in 1930's It's a Great Life, where he and Dave Dreyer penned "The Hoosier Hop" and "I'm Following You." 1934's Thumbs Up was MacDonald's final Broadway show; he passed away on November 17, 1935.