Harold Arlen (February 15, 1905 – April 23, 1986) was an American composer of popular music. Having written over 400 songs, a number of which have become known the world over, Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the Great American Songbook. His 1938 song "Over the Rainbow” was voted the twentieth century's No. 1 song by the Recording Industry Association of America .
Arlen was born Chaim Arlook, in Buffalo, New York, the child of a Jewish cantor. His twin brother died the next day. He learned the piano as a youth and formed a band as a young man. He achieved some local success as a pianist and singer and moved to New York City in his early 20s. He worked as an accompanist in vaudeville. At this point, he changed his name to Harold Arlen. Between 1926 and about 1934, Arlen appeared occasionally as a band vocalist on records by The Buffalodians, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti, Leo Reisman and Eddie Duchin, usually singing his own compositions.
In 1929, Arlen composed his first well-known song: "Get Happy" (with lyrics by Ted Koehler). Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler wrote shows for the Cotton Club, a popular Harlem night.