born on 12/12/1894 in Bialystok, Podlachien, Poland
died on 14/6/1990 in New York City, NY, United States
Jay Gorney (1894 - June 14, 1990) was an American theater and film song writer.
Life and career
Gorney was born Abraham Jacob Gornetzsky in Biaystok, Russia (now part of Poland) on December 12, 1894. In 1906, he witnessed the Bialystock pogrom, which forced his family into hiding for nearly two weeks, after which they fled to the United States. His family settled in Detroit, Michigan where his father became an engineer at the newly formed Ford Motor Company. His mother bought a piano for her children. After two years of lessons, at age 14, Gorney was offered a job as a pianist at a local nickelodeon.
He worked his way through the University of Michigan (Class of 1917), and the University of Michigan Law School (Class of 1919), as a pianist. His studies were interrupted by World War I, during which he enlisted in the Navy. After graduating, he practiced law only briefly, then turned instead to his love of music, relocating with his wife to New York City, where he began his song writing career on Tin Pan Alley. He contributed numerous songs to musicals by the Shubert brothers. Later, Ira Gershwin introduced him to lyricist Yip Harburg, who became a frequent collaborator. The pair's most famous song was "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," based on a lullaby that Gorney learned as a child in Russia. It first appeared in the 1932 Shubert production of New Americana and became the anthem of the Great Depression. The Gorney-Harburg partnership ended when Harburg took up with Gorney's wife, whom he subsequently married.
Gorney's daughter from his second marriage, Karen Lynn Gorney, is an actress and dancer who was in the original cast of All My Children and played opposite John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
Gorney's 2005 biography, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? The Life of Composer Jay Gorney, was written by his widow Sondra.
- Jay Gorney at the Internet Movie Database
- SondraGorney.com - Website of Jay Gorney's widow, Sondra, featuring information on her late husband
- GorneyMusicPublishing.com - Jay Gorney's website created by Sondra Gorney, Daniel Gorney, and Karen Lynn Gorney
- Jay Gorney's scores are housed in the Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- Jay Gorney papers, 1896-1993, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts