Jerry Leiber, legendary songwriter of rock’n’roll music, died of cardiopulmonary failure on Monday, August 22, at Cedar Sinai medical Centre in Los Angeles. He was 78.
“Jerry Leiber passed quickly and with minimum discomfort, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his three sons, Jed, Oliver, and Jake, and his two granddaughters, Chloe and Daphne. You can honor his memory by committing your life to excellence and joy. Of course, Jerry would never have said anything like that. He would have said:
‘Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…’
That works, too. L’chaim, Unca Jer.” Wrote Peter Stoller on Leiber & Stoller’s website.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have been writing songs for almost sixty years. They created classics in various genres, Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Jazz, Cabaret, and they could said they had contributed to the birth of Rock&Roll.
Jerry Leiber was born on April 25, 1933, in Baltimore, Maryland and he met Mike Stoller in 1950.
“Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Stand By Me”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Yakety-Yak”, “Young Blood”, “On Broadway”, “Poison Ivy”, “Stand By Me”, “Love Potion No. 9”, ” Love Me”, “King Creole”, “There Goes My Baby”, “Charlie Brown” are some of their most known songs.
Jerry and Mike were teenagers back then, they shared a passion for blues and wrote songs for amusement. Jerry Leiber was writing mostly the lyrics and Mike Stoller was composing the music.
“Jerry was an idea machine. For every situation, Jerry had 20 ideas.” Mike Stoller said in their autobiography “Hound Dog” (2009).
Their songs were recorded by Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Esther, Little Willie Littlefield, Charles Brown, Ray Charles, the Drifters, Coasters and the Robins. In 1953 Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” and the Atlantic Records became interested in them.
Mike Stoller, Elvis Presley and Jerry Leiber studying "Jailhouse Rock" song sheet
“The song is not about a dog; it’s about a man, a freeloading gigolo. Elvis’ version makes no sense to me, and, even more irritatingly, it is not the song that Mike and I wrote. Of course, the fact that it sold more than seven million copies took the sting out of what seemed to be a capricious changes of lyrics.” Said Jerry Leiber in their memoir “Hound Dog”.
In 1959 the Coasters’ “Poison Ivy” went to number 1 on the R&B chart and number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Pure and simple, ‘Poison Ivy’ is a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease – or the clap – hardly a topic for a song that hit the Top Ten in the Spring of 1959.” “But the more we wrote, the less we understood why the public bought what it bought.” Jerry Leiber said.
In 1964 the Beatles became popular in US and the music trends changed, however in 1972 their Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You” was a hit.
“Is That All There Is?” won Grammy award in 1969 and same did the cast album of “Smokey Joe’s Café”, a 1995 Broadway musical. They were inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985.
American Idol, reality television singing competition, dedicated an evening to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s music on May 11, 2011.
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