Composer and lyricist, Harold Rome was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 27, 1908. He learned to play the piano in his childhood and performed with many dance bands during high school. Rome attended Trinity College and Yale University where he studied architecture. An excellent swing pianist, he joined the Yale University Orchestra and supported himself by playing in nightclubs and dance halls. After graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in 1929, the stock market. Unable to find work during the depression, he decided to try his luck as a musician. He wrote arrangements for various bands as well as shows for Green Mansions, a Jewish summer resort in the Adirondacks.
On the basis of some of his Green Mansions songs, Louis Schaffer, the drama bead of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, commissioned him to compose the songs for a revue sponsored by the ILGWU, from whose ranks the performers were to come. The revue, titled Pins and Needles, opened on Broadway in 1937 at the tiny Princess Theatre. It originally played only on weekends, but it was so popular that it quickly added performances and moved to the larger Windsor Theatre. Pins and Needles ran for 1,108 performances, the longest run of any musical during the 1930’s. Songs from the production included "Sunday In the Park" and "Sing Me a Song of Social Significance," which reflected the new populist, socially conscious outlook that had come into existence during the first years of the Roosevelt administration. The Hudson-DeLange Orchestra with vocalist Mary McHugh recorded a version of "Sunday In the Park," which became Rome's first hit song.
Legendary playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart admired Pins and Needles, and enlisted Rome to write the music for the topical Broadway revue Sing Out the News in 1938. One of the most popular numbers from the show was “FDR Jones”. The production was another success, however, World War II had broken out in Europe and Rome joined the US army special services, writing music and lyrics to entertain the troops.
After his discharge from the army, he wrote the last of his social and political revues, Call Me Mister (1946), which celebrated the joys of civilian life and gave expression to the post-war euphoria sweeping the United States while poking fun at the altered society the veterans were coming home to. The most popular song from the show was "South Arnerica, Take It Away," which was most successfully recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. The score also included a tribute to the late President Roosevelt, "The Face On the Dime."
In the 1950’s Rome continued, with limited success, to contribute to revues, including Michael Todd's Peep Show, Alive and Kicking, and Bless You All. Rome's first book musical, Wish You Were Here, was for producer Joshua Logan, who also wrote the libretto with Arthur Kober. The musical, set at a Catskill resort, opened in 1952 to negative reviews, but a re-tooling of the book by Logan and an Eddie Fisher recording of the title song (that would eventually reach #1 on the charts) turned the show into a 598 performance hit. Rome's other Broadway musicals were Fanny (1954), Destry Rides Again (1959), and I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962).
Rome's last Broadway musical was 1965's Zulu and the Zayda, which dealt with racial and religious intolerance and showed that the social conscience that marked his early work was still intact. It was based on the short story “The Zulu and the Zeide” by Dan Jacobson. Rome's final work was an adaptation of Gone With the Wind, which was met with moderate success in Tokyo, London and Los Angeles in 1973.
Harold Rome died in New York City on October 26,1993 at the age of 85.