Think Savannah in the summertime. A lazy summer afternoon on a shady porch. Mint and lemon in a frosty glass. Jasmine in the air. It's the perfect setting for the songs of Johnny Mercer. His bittersweet lyrics to iconic love songs like "Fools Rush In," "Autumn Leaves" and "Moon River" make them immediately recognizable as 'Mercer Songs.'
Philip Furia in The Poets of Tin Pan Alley, A History of America's Great Lyricists writes: "What gives Mercer's best songs their distinctive character is their blend of urbanity and earthiness, a blend so distinctive that, alone among the lyricists of Tin Pan Alley, people speak of a "Mercer" song as readily as they denominate songs by their composer."
Johnny Mercer wrote songs for 90 films, won four Academy Awards and was nominated 17 more times. He collaborated with great composers of the Golden Age of American popular song—Hoagy Carmichael, Harry Warren, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Richard Whiting, Rube Bloom, Jimmy McHugh, Jimmy Van Heusen, Arthur Schwartz, Gordon Jenkins and many others. Some of his most successful songs were written in the 60s with Henry Mancini. Emerging from this collaboration were such lasting hits as "Moon River," "Charade" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."
This Week on Riverwalk Jazz
Vocalist Rebecca Kilgore joins members of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band to celebrate the lyrics of Johnny Mercer in a broadcast titled Our Huckleberry Friend, at the historic Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento. Rebecca and the Band perform some of Mercer's best loved tunes including "P.S. I Love You," "Dream," "Goody Goody" and lesser known novelty tunes, "Jamboree Jones" and "Bob White."
Photo credit for home page teaser image: Johnny Mercer album cover. Image courtesy Capitol records.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2008