The seventh volume in Knopf’s critically acclaimed Complete Lyrics series, published in Johnny Mercer’s centennial year, contains the texts to more than 1,200 of his lyrics, several hundred of them published here for the first time.
Johnny Mercer’s early songs became staples of the big band era and were regularly featured in the musicals of early Hollywood. With his collaborators, who included Richard A. Whiting, Harry Warren, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen, he wrote the lyrics to some of the most famous standards, among them, “Too Marvelous for Words,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Skylark,” “I’m Old-Fashioned,” and “That Old Black Magic.”
During a career of more than four decades, Mercer was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song an astonishing eighteen times, and won four: for his lyrics to “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” (music by Warren), “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (music by Carmichael), and “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses” (music for both by Henry Mancini).
You’ve probably fallen in love with more than a few of Mercer’s songs–his words have never gone out of fashion–and with this superb collection, it’s easy to see that his lyrics elevated popular song into art.
About Robert Kimball
Robert Kimball was educated at Yale College and Yale Law School. He has been the music critic of the New York Post and is the co-author or editor of several books on musical theater, including Cole, the celebrated book about Cole Porter that he edited with Brendan Gill. He also edited Knopf’s four previous books in the Complete Lyrics series. He is co-editor, with Robert Gottlieb, of Reading Lyrics. Mr. Kimball lives in New York.
Steve Nelson is a professor of musical theater at New York University and the producer of the Songwriter Series for the Library of Congress, which releases recordings of Broadway songwriters performing their own material. He is also the author of Only a Paper Moon: The Theatre of Billy Rose. Mr. Nelson lives in New York.
About Barry Day
Barry Day was born in England and received his MA from Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a Trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and was awarded the Order of the British Empire “for services to British culture in the U.S.A.” He lives in New York, London, and Palm Beach.
“This is the seventh volume in one of the most worthwhile scholarly enterprises of our time, the effort to collect all the lyrics of the great pop songwriters of the 20th century. . . . The scholarship is impressive . . . a labor of love . . . Amazingly prolific . . . Mercer tended to think of each lyric as complete in itself, a little poem . . . He seemed comfortable across the entirety of America, and said as much in song: ‘Any place I hang my hat is home.’ But he always kept up his connection to the South, which provided him with the inspiration for much of his best work. . . . The other great lyricists had many ear-bending adjectives in their quivers. But none of them ever came up with a more perfect word for a song than Johnny Mercer did when his Southern unconscious gave him the gift of ‘huckleberry.’”
—Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review
“[Mercer] could be considered the best lyricist of the last five-score years. . . . one of the most evocative writers about the American South who’s ever put pen to paper. . . . Enjoying a book such as this is akin to turning on an internal iPod. . . . Mercer wrote ‘That Old Black Magic’ and infused it—and everything else he copiously imagined—with that old knack magic.”
—David Finkle, The Huffington Post