Monday, July 20, 2009

Leiber & Stoller on Music Legacy

Jerry Leiber (lyrics) and Mike Stoller (music) have written so many standards that one simply cannot choose a favourite... So I won't even try...

I will reproduce for you some thoughts on songwriting and their musical legacy that the pair shared with the San Francisco Chronicle in a recent article here:

"With all the great pop songs, nothing can be added or subtracted on either an emotional or musical level," [Leiber] says. "They're absolutes. The most automatic efforts come from a spring that has the earmarks of time and meaning to them. If you can translate those into a tune and marry that to something that can be easily deduced, you have a chance for a standard.

"Of course, we thought all the standards had been written already," he adds. "How could there be more standards when you had Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin?"

He closes his eyes and hums to himself, fixing the tune in his head, and softly starts to sing.

"The old wolf sniffs the summer breeze and dreams about his youth," he whispers, the opening lines to Leiber and Stoller's "The Girls I Never Kissed," a song recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Leiber went to see Sinatra sing the song at Carnegie Hall, a richly rewarding moment for the songwriter. Sinatra introduced the song. "This was written by a couple of kids who write nothing but that rock 'n' roll crap," he said.

It's not something Leiber hasn't heard before. After he wrote "Is That All There Is?" Johnny Mercer invited Leiber to sit beside him at the head of the table at the Songwriter's Hall of Fame dinner. "You know why you're here?" he asked Leiber. "Because you finally wrote a good song."

Good song? I wish I had written some of the "bad" Leiber & Stoller songs ("Jailhouse Rock" or "Hound Dog" or "Fools Fall in Love")... May the Muse be with you.

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