Prolific Composer and pianist Ben Oakland was born on September 24, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. A child prodigy, Oakland performed at Carnegie Hall in a piano concert at the age of nine. He later accompanied Helen Morgan and George Jessel on Vaudeville.
As a composer, Oakland was one of the most sought after during the 1920’sthrought he 1940’s, writing, directing and producing shows for Van Johnson, Josephine Baker, Jeanette MacDonald, Tony Martin, Joe E. Lewis, Nelson Eddy, Nanette Fabray and Gisele MacKenzie. Oakland also produced The George Jessel Show and Down Tin Pan Alley for TV.
He contributed songs to the Broadway revues Ziegfeld Follies of 1931, Earl Carroll’s Sketch Book, Hold Your Horses, Americana, the nightclub reviews George White’s Gay White Way, Cotton Club Parade, Casino de Paree, and Paradise Parade and the film scores I’ll Take Romance, The Awful Truth, My Little Chickadee, The Big Store and Show Buisness.
With the onset of World War II, Oakland, like many conductors of his day, performed in USO camp shows. He received 14 citations, including the US Treasury Award for his efforts during the War.
Among his chief collaborators were lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II, Paul Francis Webster, Herb Magidson, Don Raye, Milton Drake, Bob Russell, L.Wolfe Gilbert and Artie Shaw. With his collaborators, Oakland had a string of hits before the 1950’s, including “I’ll Take Romance”, “If I Love Again”, “Java Jive”, “I’ll Dance at Your Wedding”, “I Promise You”, “Roses in December”, “Cool Tango”, “You’re Not So Easy to Forget”, “Sidewalks of Cuba”, “I’m Counting on You”, “Li’l Abner”, “A Mist is Over the Moon”, “Puppy Love”, “A Pink Cocktail for a Blue Lady”, “Dimples and Cherry Cheeks”, “Beau Night in Hotchkiss Corners” and “River, River.”
Oakland also wrote the music to the great standard “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”