Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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RAZAF, Andy

(b Andreamanantena Paul Razafkeriefo, 16 December 1895, Washington DC; d 3 February 1973, North Hollywood) Lyricist, said to be descended from the royal family of Madagascar, his father a nephew of Queen Ranavalona III. Back when jazz was popular and popular music was jazz, He wrote lyrics for shows Keep Shufflin' '28, Hot Chocolates '29 (with Louis Armstrong singing 'Ain't Misbehavin'' from the pit), Blackbirds Of 1930, many other revues and night club floor shows. His most successful collaboration was with Fats Waller ('Ain't Misbehavin'', 'Honeysuckle Rose', 'Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now', 'Ain't Misbehavin'', 'Blue, Turning Grey Over You', 'How Can You Face Me', 'Black And Blue', 'The Joint Is Jumpin'', many others), also Don Redman ('Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You?'), Paul Denniker ('S'posin''), James P. Johnson ('A Porter's Love Song To A Chambermaid'), Eubie Blake ('Memories Of You'), William Weldon ('I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town'). Wrote both words and music for 'That's What I Like About The South', a novelty hit for Phil Harris '47; also added words to many Swing Era hits/instrumentals including 'Knock Me A Kiss' (hit for Gene Krupa '42), 'Christopher Columbus' (hilarious recording by Waller '36), etc. He recorded as a vocalist, often using pseudonyms: with Luis Russell, Fletcher Henderson, Rex Stewart, a few records of his own: as Tommy Thompson recorded 'Back In Your Own Back Yard', 'Nobody Knows How Much I Love You' '28 with another singer, a violin and Waller on piano.

He also wrote his share of risqué songs for what used ro be called 'party' records: 'My Man O' War' (with Spencer Williams), 'Find Out What They Like And How They Like It' (with Waller). He had a good time with double entendre as he wrote or co-wrote 'Chiropractor Blues', 'Sell Your Proposition While It's Hot', 'Vice Versa', 'Working Girl' and so on. He wrote all 8 songs on Betty Thornton's Nice Songs For Naughty People (four 78s '46 on Davis, later reissued on a Beacon LP as Tit For Tat with added tracks). Other albums featuring Razaf songs from Joe Davis (whom Razaf had known since about 1924) were A Little Spice and Girlesque, by Faye Richmonde, and Confidential, by Angelina (The Singing Model), all on Davis '57. (The latter's sleeve copied the typeface of the controversial supermarket tabloid.)

Maxine Sullivan made A Tribute To Andy Razaf '56 on Period, later on various CDs, backed by an all-star jazz band (including Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey) re-creating the sound of the marvelous John Kirby band of 15 years earlier. One of the foremost authorities on American songs released Guess Who's In Town: Bobby Short Performs The Songs of Andy Razaf '87 on Atlantic. Barry Singer's biography Black And Blue: The Life And Lyrics Of Andy Razaf '92 is very good on Harlem, Tin Pan Alley and the antics of Waller and Razaf: they would sell their lead sheets to publishers for cash, foregoing royalties to finance their carousing. Razaf wrote over 800 songs, some of them still sung around the world, but never achieved the personal fame he deserved. He had a stroke and was an invalid in his final years.