This is the last day of our week-long celebration of the birthday of Johnny Mercer - November 19, 1909.
This week, I have provided you with some details about Mercer's life, his contribution to American popular music, and best of all, several examples of his words and music. In addition, for those interested in learning more about him, I listed several sources in a variety of formats. There's plenty more to know. If you do pick up a book or check out a website, you'll find that Mercer was both the source of the idea and a founding member of Capitol Records. You'll also read that he was extraordinarily generous. You'll also find out that, almost throughout his life, the fame and fortune came at great personal cost. That seems to be the rule. Still, Mercer's gap-toothed smile and performance talent brought pleasure to millions of Americans during the mid-century. That's how I have chosen to present him, and this video shows the lyricist and performer at his best, delivering a sermon we all need to hear:
It has now been more than a generation since Mercer's death in 1976. He may be gone, but that mountain of music and the ideas he left behind are very much alive and well. Today, we're going to focus on the people - the singers - and organizations that keep that Mercer legacy alive. You could say this information is an extension of the references I cited earlier, but the focus is more on appreciation than learning.
Margaret Whiting (Long associated with Mercer as a performer and family friend, she is probably the most significant individual promoter of Mercer's music.) Linked album has 24 selections, about half of them by Mercer.
Nancy Wilson (Ginger Mercer gave family friend, Barry Manilow, several of Johnny's unfinished poems to be set to music. This album was the final product.)
Mel Torme (extensive recordings from the Mercer catalog, but no single album)
Nancy LaMott (outstanding interpretation; her untimely death was a great loss to the music world))
Diana Krall (extensive recordings from the catalog, but - very sadly - no single album)
Bobby Darin (a landmark album recorded with Mercer; it's a classic)
Maxine Sullivan (simply swinging jazz from a great vocalist)
The Johnny Mercer Educational Archives I mentioned this site earlier. Just about everything you want to know will be here.
The Johnny Mercer Special Collection, Georgia State University This university in downtown Atlanta houses most of Mercer's personal papers and memorabilia. They also maintain a well-done exhibit room on "the bard from Savannah."
The Johnny Mercer Foundation
Friends of Johnny Mercer
Songwriters Hall of Fame Mercer was a co-founder of this organization in 1969
Well, my friends, that is about it for my Mercer celebration this year. I hope to be in Savannah next year at this time, so that should answer any questions about why I didn't wait for his centennial to do a splurge. I'd like to end with another big hit:
If you go to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah to see his grave, you'll find a song title used as his epitaph. Very fitting, as the song was also a landmark in music in 1939. So here is Benny Goodman and his Orchestra with vocal by Martha Tilton, and Ziggy Elman on trumpet with Elman and Mercer's, And the Angels Sing.