Green, Johnny

Green, (John W.) Johnny

(1908–89) composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist; born in New York City. "Hooked" on music from the time he saw a band concert at age three, he began studying piano at age five; by 13 he knew the basics of composition and orchestration. He enrolled at Harvard at age 15, and while there, commenced his career as an orchestra leader and composer; his "Coquette" (1927), words by Gus Kahn, was a hit even before he took his B.A. (1928). He quit a job in his uncle's brokerage firm in 1928 and dedicated himself to music. At first he worked as a music arranger for the movies, conducted orchestras, and accompanied singers. From the 1930s on he collaborated with such lyricists as E. Y. Harburg and Edward Heyman on many standards including "Body and Soul" (1930). He continued to conduct orchestras on tours and on radio and he was with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (1942–58), first as a composer-conductor-arranger, later as music director; he was in charge of several successful MGM film musicals, winning Oscars for Easter Parade (1948) and An American in Paris (1951). A serious musician, he also composed and conducted orchestral music for the concert stage and films, conducted many symphony orchestras, and was lecturer and artist-in-residence at Harvard in 1979 and 1981.