b. Abraham Jacob Gornetzsky, 12 December 1894, Bialystok, Russia, d. 14 June 1990, New York City, New York, USA. With his family, Gorney relocated to the USA at the age of 10, settling in Detroit, Michigan. There he studied piano, and played in a school orchestra, in bars and for silent films. After studying law and music theory at the University of Michigan he briefly practiced law, then turned to music. From the early 20s his songs appeared in shows and he was most often in collaboration with lyricist E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg. For Dancing Girl (1923) he composed ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, and he wrote scores for Top Hole (1924), Merry-Go-Round (1927), The Sketch Book (1929) and Earl Carroll Vanities (1930). In 1932 Gorney composed the score of Americana, from which came his and Harburg’s big hit, ‘Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?’.
Gorney also worked in films, as composer, producer and screenwriter, including The Battle Of Paris (1929, writing ‘What Makes My Baby Blue?’ and ‘When I Am Housekeeping For You’ with Dick Howard), Applause (1929, starring Morgan, from which came ‘What Wouldn’t I Do For That Man?’ with Harburg), Roadhouse Nights (1930, starring Morgan and Jimmy Durante, ‘Just A Melody For A Memory’ and ‘It Can’t Go On Like This’, with Harburg), Jimmy And Sally (1933, ‘You’re My Thrill’, with Sidney Clare), Stand Up And Cheer! (1934, featuring Shirley Temple and John Boles, ‘Baby, Take A Bow’, with Lew Brown), Maria Galante (1934, ‘Song Of A Dreamer’, with Jack Yellen), and, as screenwriter, Moonlight And Pretzels (1933). In the theatre was the revue, Meet The People (1939), which featured ‘The Stars Remain’, ‘A Fellow And A Girl’ and ‘The Same Old South’, with lyricists Edward Eliscu and Henry Myers.
Early 40s films included The Heat’s On (1943, with Mae West and William Gaxton), Hey, Rookie (1944, screenwriter), and The Gay Senorita (1945, producer). He wrote the score for Heaven On Earth (1948, ‘So Near And Yet So Far’), and the show Touch And Go (1949, ‘Wish Me Luck’ and ‘Funny Old, Little Old World’). Through the 50s and into the early 60s, Gorney was a producer and composer in television. He and Harburg reunited for The Happiest Girl In The World (1961), for which Gorney adapted music composed originally by Jacques Offenbach. He is the father of actress and dancer Karen Lynn Gorney.