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Mercer collaborated with the great songwriters. His lyrics were hip, and he was a magician with words. Of some 1500 songs, his first hit was Hoagy Carmichael’s “Lazybones” (1933), followed by “Skylark” (1941). With Jimmy Van Heusen he penned the popular “I Thought About You” in 1939. He and his partner for a decade, Harold Arlen, hit the charts with “Blues in the Night” (1941) and “That Old Black Magic” (1942). In 1944 Bing Crosby introduced their “Accentuate the Positive” in Here Come the Waves.
In 1942 Mercer wrote lyrics for “I’m Old-Fashioned” (Jerome Kern) and for “I Remember You” and “Tangerine” (Victor Schertzinger) and became one of the founders of Capitol Records. In 1947 he collaborated with Sonny Burke and Lionel Hampton on the jazz classic “Midnight Sun,” and in 1958 he added lyrics to the Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn instrumental “Satin Doll.”
During Mercer’s active film career he supplied lyrics to David Raksin’s haunting theme for Laura (1945), to 1953’s Charade, and to Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” (The Americanization of Emily, 1964). Among his Oscar winners are “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” with Harry Warren (1946) and “Moon River” with Henry Mancini (1961). He also scored several Broadway shows, including Li’l Abner, 1959.
Mercer is one of the songwriters honored by a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service in 1996.
- Sandra Burlingame
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Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer
Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer
St. Martin's Press; 1st edition
Julie Andrews/James Garner
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
DVD Introduced "Emily"
Peter Palmer (III), Leslie Parrish, Stubby Kaye, Howard St. John, Julie Newmar, Stella Stevens
John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Jack Thompson, Irma P. Hall, Jude Law
Midnight in Garden of Good & Evil
Warner Home Video
DVD Mercer songs on soundtrack
Howard Keel, Jane Powell
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, Jack Klugman
The Days of Wine and Roses
Warner Home Video
DVD Lyrics for title song
Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price
20th Century Fox
Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam
Breakfast at Tiffany's
DVD Introduced "Moon River"
Gregoire Aslan, Paul Bonifas, Thomas Chelimsky, James Coburn, Colin Drake
Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, Sonny Tufts
Here Come the Waves
VHS Introduced "Accentuate the Positive"
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