American composer of many hallmark songs of the 1920s and '30s.
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Harry Akst Biography

by John Bush

Harry Akst was one of the quintessential Tin Pan Alley composers, churning out dozens of hits during the 1920s, including classics of the form like "Am I Blue?," "Baby Face," "Dinah," "First, Last and Always," "Stella," and "Travelin' Light." Born in New York City in 1894, Akst joined Irving Berlin's publishing company in 1919 as a staff pianist and -- with Berlin's lyrical help -- composed his first hit, "Home Again Blues," two years later. (It was Berlin's last collaborative composition.) In 1925, Akst wrote the tune for "Dinah," and after lyrics were added by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young, the song became a treasured standard performed by Ethel Waters, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, and many others. Another all-time classic, "Baby Face," followed one year later (with lyrics by Benny Davis). Waters also earned a big hit with Akst's 1929 composition "Am I Blue?," with lyrics by Grant Clarke. His last major song, "Travelin' Light," appeared in 1937, with lyrics by Sidney Claire. Harry Akst died in 1963.

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