Today is a beautiful but cold sunny Sunday morning. And it's already weird. At our Community Radio station, the guy who plays older gospel was in for his 6am show, but both the 8am show and the 10am show are missing in action. The 6am guy hadn't been doing his show for months - and re-emerged three weeks ago when Mercury Retrograde started. The two shows following him are both dependable and always there - except today.
Two favorites of mine have birthdays today. It was on this day in 1928 that Mickey Mouse made his debut in the first synchronized sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie". It was actually the third Mickey Mouse made, but the first released. The first two were silent, although by the time they saw release they had added soundtracks. Disney considered this date Mickey's birthday, and that's good enough for me. And, it's a very Mercury retrograde kind of thing...
And Joy! be upon us. Ralph arrived late for his radio show (problems with traffic - you now know what at work), and he is doing a birthday tribute to the other birthday celebrant I wanted to mention, a b-i-g Stevil music fave, Johnny Mercer. The first hour plus of my own radio show last night was a Johnny Mercer celebration. How important is Johnny Mercer to the Great American Songbook? Well, look at it this way - in the late 1950's and early 1960's, at the height of her powers, Ella Fitzgerald recorded a series of nine 'songbooks'. Of them, only one was dedicated to a lyricist - and that lyricist was Johnny Mercer. In 1942, along with a Hollywood executive (who was also an occasional songwriter) and a record store owner, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records. Although he started on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, he had gone west in the early 1930's. The numerous songs he wrote for the movies earned him 19 Oscar nominations. He won four times.
Just to name a few Mercer penned hits: Jeepers Creepers, Blues in the Night, Hooray for Hollywood, And the Angels Sing, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread), This Time the Dream's On Me, That Old Black Magic, Travelin' Light, Skylark, One for My Baby and One More For the Road, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, My SHining Hour, Dream, Come Rain Or Come Shine, Early Autumn, Autumn Leaves (English lyric), Something's Gotta Give, The Days of Wine and Roses... and that just scratches the surface.
Here's one of the ones which won an Oscar for Best Song (although the print quality and color are a disservice to this production number):
Here's another of his Oscar winners:
After Johnny Mercer passed at the age of 66, his wife gave his last lyric to Mercer's friend Barry Manilow, who set it to music. Here it is performed by Rosemary Clooney backed by the Glenn Miller ghost band on a New Year's Eve in 1988. Oh, yeah, the song became a bit of a hit. And I have to tell you, at my age (I'm now 62), this one has really begun to hit home.
So Happy Birthday, Johnny Mercer, and Thank You for all the music.