Acrobat Music

Johnny Mercer, famed songwriter, lyricist, and singer died on 18th November 1976

Johnny Mercer, famed songwriter, lyricist, and singer died on 18th November 1976
We are a few days late with this, but it’s an opportunity to recognize one of the great songwriters and lyricists of the 20th century.  Johnny Mercer was unusual among the Great American Songbook luminaries, being born in Savannah, Georgia, on November 18th 1909, and unlike his New York contemporaries, often with an urban Jewish background, he was from the rural South, exposed to black music, blues and jazz as a child. He moved to New York when he was 19, finding work singing and acting while hawking his songs for several years, until he teamed up with the already-successful Hoagy Carmichael to write the southern-flavoured "Lazybones", which was an instant hit, giving Mercer instant recognition in Tin Pan Alley. He got an offer from RKO to move to Hollywood in 1935, which secured his career, and he found a real aptitude for writing for movies. His first big film hit was “I’m an old cowhand” for Bing Crosby in 1936, and in 1937 he teamed up at Warner Bros. with veteran writer Richard Whiting, with whom he wrote “Too marvellous for words” and “Hooray for Hollywood”, joining Harry Warren after Whiting’s sudden death to get his first Oscar nomination with “Jeepers creepers”. In the ‘40s he worked with Harold Arlen, an ideal partner, who shared his love of the blues, and they wrote the classic  “Blues in the night”, “One for my baby”, “That old black magic” and “Come rain or come shine”, all of them providing rich material for Frank Sinatra over the years. In 1942, he co-founded Capitol Records, which became one of the most successful labels of the next 20 years, recording many artists who were regular users of his songs. He provided the lyrics for many songs which had been instrumental hits – “Autumn leaves”, “Satin doll” and “Laura” among them. His movie hit-writing continued into the ‘50s and ‘’60s, most notably perhaps writing the lyrics for Henry Mancini’s “Moon river” in 1961 and “Charade” in 1964. He was approached in 1975 by Paul McCartney to collaborate, but Mercer became ill, and died the following year from a brain tumour at the age of 65. As with Sammy Cahn, mercer’s songs are widely represented in Acrobat’s catalogue, performed by the likes of Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford, Big Joe Turner, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and others.
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