Otto Harbach Biography

Otto Abels Harbach, born Otto Abels Hauerbach (August 18, 1873 – January 24, 1963) was an American lyricist and librettist of about 50 musical comedies. He is most remembered for being Oscar Hammerstein II's mentor and was one of the first librettists to believe that songs should be woven into a show, not just placed there. He is also considered one of the first great lyricists, because most of the others were considered hacks. This was because the shows usually didn't care about lyrics, just the music, the costumes, and the stars. Some of his more famous lyrics are for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Indian Love Call" and "Cuddle up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine".

Harbach was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Danish immigrant parents Adolph Christiansen and his wife Sena Olsen. His parents changed their name when they immigrated to the United States, and took the name of the farm they worked on (common practice at the time), and their new last name was Hauerbach.

He attended the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, transferring to Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, where he was a friend of Carl Sandburg, joined Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and graduated in 1895. He obtained his masters degree in English from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and attended Columbia University in New York with the goal of becoming an English professor. In the early 1900s, complaining of eye difficulties making prolonged reading uncomfortable, he became a newspaper reporter. He also worked at various advertising agencies. He also worked as at an insurance firm, copywriter in advertising, and later as a journalist. He would have to pull out of Columbia when he could not financially support himself.