Jack Yellen, 98, songwriter whose hits included Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaign theme song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” died April 17 in Springville, N.Y.
The buoyant Depression-era anthem “Happy Days Are Here Again,” which the lyricist wrote in 1929 with the late composer Milton Ager, was adopted by FDR for his 1932 campaign song and continued to serve as a Democratic Party standby. Yellen, ironically, was a Republican.
A native of Poland, Yellen came to the U.S. with his family in 1897 and began writing songs as a high school student in Buffalo. He briefly was a police reporter for the old Buffalo Courier before moving to N.Y. to pursue a professional songwriting career.
His more than 130 songs (often in collaboration with Ager) also included one of the most durable songs from the Roaring Twenties, “Ain’t She Sweet,” and many for Sophie Tucker, including “My Yiddishe Momme,” “Mr. Siegal, You Gotta Make It Legal” and her signature tune, “The Last Of The Red-Hot Mommas.”
He also wrote songs for such Broadway shows as “What’s In A Name,” “Rain Or Shine,” “You Said It,” “George White’s Scandals” of 1935 and 1939, “Boys And Girls Together” and “Ziegfeld Follies Of 1943.”
Yellen contributed songs to such films as the 1930 two-strip Technicolor tuner “The King Of Jazz,” “George White’s Scandals” of 1934 and 1935, the Shirley Temple vehicles “Captain January” and “Rebecca Of Sunny-brook Farm” and “Happy Landing” with Sonja Henie.
He retired in the late 1940s to run an egg business on his farm in upstate New York. He was chosen for the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
He was one of the first members of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (joining in 1917), and was a member of its board 1951 to ’69.
Survived by his wife, Lucille, a son, a daughter, a brother and six grandchildren.