Harold Rome

Harold Jacob "Hecky"[1] Rome (May 27, 1908 – October 26, 1993) was an American composer, lyricist, and writer for musical theater.

Harold Rome
Rome in 1950
Harold Jacob Rome

(1908-05-27)May 27, 1908
DiedOctober 26, 1993(1993-10-26) (aged 85)
OccupationComposer, lyricist, writer


He was born in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from Hartford Public High School.[2] Originally, he chose to go to Trinity College, but transferred because he felt like a "townie".[1] Rome played piano in local dance bands such as Eddie Wittstein's and was already writing music while studying architecture and law at Yale University. While at Yale, he also pledged to Tau Epsilon Phi.[3] He graduated in 1929 with a Bachelor of Arts, and continued into Yale Law School.[3]

After graduation, he worked as an architect in New York City, but continued to pursue his musical interests, arranging music for local bands and writing material for revues at Green Mansions, a Jewish summer resort in the Adirondacks. Much of the music Rome was writing at this time was socially conscious and of little interest to Tin Pan Alley.

In 1937, he made his Broadway debut as co-writer, composer, and lyricist of the topical revue Pins and Needles. Pins and Needles was originally written for a small theatrical production directed by Samuel Roland. After a 2-week professional run, it was adapted for performances by members of the then-striking International Garment Workers' Union as an entertainment for its members. Because Roland was associated with left-wing causes, he was asked by ILGWU president David Dubinsky to withdraw. The show was a huge success, running for 1108 performances, and prompted George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart to invite Rome to collaborate on another topical revue, Sing Out the News, in 1938.

In 1949, he wrote the English lyrics of the French song Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ?. The title song became What Can I Do ? and the song was recorded by Madelyn Russell with Mitch Miller and his Orchestra.

In the early 1940s, Rome wrote songs for several revues and shows, but it was not until after the end of World War II that he had his next real success with Call Me Mister. His first full-fledged musical was Wish You Were Here in 1952. Additional Broadway credits include Fanny (1954), Destry Rides Again (1959), I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962), in which Barbra Streisand made her Broadway debut, and The Zulu and the Zayda (1965), which dealt with racial and religious intolerance. He also wrote the lyrics for La Grosse Valise (composer Gerard Calvi), which enjoyed a short run at the 54th Street Theater in 1965.

In 1970, he wrote a musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind entitled Scarlett for a Tokyo production with a Japanese cast. It later was staged in English with little success in London and Los Angeles.

Rome's music and/or lyrics can be heard in such films as Rear Window, Anchors Aweigh, Thousands Cheer, and Babes on Broadway.

In 1991, Rome was presented with a special Drama Desk Award for his "distinctive contribution to musical theater." Later that same year, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[4]

Rome also was a painter and art collector. He died of a stroke in New York City at the age of 85.[5]





  1. Zimmers 2013, pp. 6.
  2. Zimmers 2013, pp. 5.
  3. Zimmers 2013, pp. 7.
  4. Witchel, Alex (December 6, 1991). "On Stage, and Off". The New York Times.
  5. Collins, Glenn (October 27, 1993). "Harold Rome, 85, Writer of Socially Pointed Songs". The New York Times.
  6. "Gee, But I'd Like to Be a G-Man". Labor Arts. 1939. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  7. "Who's Gonna Investigate the Man Who Investigates Me?". Labor Arts. 1939. Retrieved July 6, 2019.


  • Zimmers, Tighe E. (2013). Lyrical Satirical Harold Rome: A Biography of the Broadway Composer-Lyricist. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 9780786470266.
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