June 10, 1891
February 11, 1945 (aged 53)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Helen McClay (1921-1943); Edwina Coolidge (1943-1943)|
|Children||Simon Joseph (died 4 days after birth), Patricia Dubin McGuire|
|Parent(s)||Simon and Minna Dubin|
Al Dubin came from a Russian Jewish family that immigrated to the United States from Switzerland when he was two years old. He grew up in Philadelphia. Between ages 13 and 16, Dubin played hookey from school in order to travel into New York City to see Broadway musical shows. At age 14 he began writing special material for a vaudeville entertainer on 28th Street between 5th and Broadway in New York City, otherwise known as Tin Pan Alley.
Dubin was accepted and enrolled at Perkiomen Seminary in September 1909, but was expelled in 1911, after writing their Alma Mater (song). After leaving Perkiomen, Dubin got himself a job as a singing waiter at a Philadelphia restaurant. He continued to write lyrics and tried selling them to area publishing firms. During this time, Dubin met composer Joe Burke. Together they wrote the song "Oh, You, Mister Moon" (1911), which was published by M. Witmark & Sons.
In 1917, Dubin was drafted at Camp Upton in Yaphank, Long Island, and served as a private in the 305th Field Artillery of the 77th Division, known as New York's own. During his service, he wrote the song "They Didn't Think We'd Do it, But We Did" with composer Fred Rath and published by the 77th Division. On his first weekend pass, Dubin went to see a show at the Majestic Theater in New York City. There he met Broadway singer Helen McClay. They were married on March 19, 1921, at the Church of St. Elizabeth in New York City, after Dubin converted to the Catholic faith and McClay was granted an annulment of her first marriage. The year they married, Dubin was accepted in ASCAP in 1921.
Known for his larger-than-life persona, Dubin struggled with alcohol and drugs, and fell on hard times in the 1940s. Estranged from his wife, Dubin struggled to find work both in Hollywood and New York. The last show Dubin was contracted to work on was Laffing Room Only, with composer Burton Lane. Dubin provided only a title for this production, "Feudin' and a Fightin'", for which he received 25 percent credit.
Dubin spent the remainder of the last few years of his life at the Empire Hotel, alone and in ill-health. On February 8, 1945, he collapsed on the street after having taken a large quantity of doctor-prescribed barbiturates. He was admitted to the Roosevelt Hospital for barbiturate poisoning and pneumonia, and later died on February 11, 1945. Famed newspaper personality Walter Winchell made the announcement of his death on the radio.
Dubin sold his first set of lyrics for two songs "Prairie Rose" and "Sunray", in 1909 to the Whitmark Music Publishing Firm.
In 1925, Dubin met the composer Harry Warren, who was to become his future collaborator at Warner Bros. studio in Hollywood. The first song they collaborated on was titled, "Too Many Kisses in the Summer Bring Too Many Tears in the Fall". But it was another song written with Joseph Meyer that same year that became Dubin's first big hit, "A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You".
Warner Bros. purchased the publishing firms of Witmark, Remick and Harms, and since Dubin was under contract to Harms, Warner Bros. inherited his services. In 1929 Dubin wrote "Tiptoe through the Tulips" with composer Joe Burke for the film Gold Diggers of Broadway.
In 1932, Dubin teamed officially with composer Harry Warren on the movie musical 42nd Street, starring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Warner Baxter and Bebe Daniels, with dance routines sequenced by legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley. The songwriting team of Warren and Dubin contributed four songs: "42nd Street", "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me", "Young and Healthy" and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo".
Between 1932 and 1939, Dubin and Warren wrote 60 hit songs for several Warner Bros. movie musicals, including Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade starring James Cagney, Roman Scandals starring Eddie Cantor, Dames, Go Into Your Dance and Wonder Bar, both starring Al Jolson. The song "Lullaby of Broadway", written by Warren and Dubin for the musical film, Gold Diggers of 1935, won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In 1980, producer David Merrick and director Gower Champion adapted the 1933 film 42nd Street into a Broadway musical that won The Tony Award for Best Musical in 1981. The book for the show was written by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble and featured a score that incorporated Warren and Dubin songs from various movie musicals including 42nd Street, Dames, Go Into Your Dance, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Gold Diggers of 1935.