Saturday, June 25, 2016

Johnny Mercer: Still Bringing Music To The World

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), a sentimental gentleman from Georgia, the favorite son of Savannah, and one of the most significant figures in American music history. He died in Los Angeles after a wide-ranging career as a prolific lyricist and songwriter, popular singer, and music industry innovator, entrepreneur and benefactor.

Johnny Mercer statue by Susie Chisholm, erected in Ellis Square, Savannah, in 2009

For those who may not be familiar with his work, here is a list of what Mercer considered his "bread and butter songs," including his four Academy Award-winning efforts (in bold) and several nominations (underlined):

Lazybones (1933), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Goody, Goody (1936), music by Marty Malneck

Too Marvelous For Words
(1937), music by Richard A. Whiting

Jeepers Creepers (1938), music by Harry Warren

Satin Doll (1958), written with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby (1938), music by Harry Warren

That Old Black Magic (1943), music by Harold Arlen

Accentuate the Positive (1944) music by Harold Arlen

Fools Rush In (1940), music by Rube Bloom

I Remember You (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Day In - Day Out (1939), music by Rube Bloom

Dearly Beloved (1942), music by Jerome Kern

Come Rain or Come Shine (1946), music by Harold Arlen

Tangerine (1942), music by Victor Schertzinger

Hooray For Hollywood (1938), music by Richard A. Whiting

Laura (1945), music by David Raksin

Dream (1944), words and music by Johnny Mercer

On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe (1946, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Harry Warren

Something's Gotta Give (1954), words and music by Johnny Mercer

One For My Baby (1943), music by Harold Arlen

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening (1951, Academy Award for Best Music, Oroginal Song), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Skylark (1941), music by Hoagy Carmichael

Autumn Leaves (1950), music by Joseph Kosma

I Wanna Be Around (1962), words and music by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt

Blues in the Night (1941), music by Harold Arlen

Charade (1963), music by Henry Mancini

Summer Wind (1965), music by Henry Mayer

Moon River (1961, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

Days of Wine and Roses (1962, Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song), music by Henry Mancini

Hardly a day passes that even a casual music listener will not hear a Johnny Mercer song. 
 For those who enjoy the Great American Songbook and jazz/pop vocals, the Mercer magic remains very much alive in contemporary music. Looks like the man once described by the lyricist, Yip Harburg, as "one of our great folk poets" will be around for a long, long time. How lucky we are!

Mercer portrait and signature, Mercer grave, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA


Photos and Illustrations:
grave site photo, Emily E. Beck

Harburg quote, Portrait of Johnny: The Life and Times of John Herndon Mercer, Gene Lees, Hal Leonard, February 2006.

No comments: