Thursday, August 25, 2011

RIP Jerry Leiber

Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller with Elvis Presley

On Monday we lost another notable songwriter, Jerry Leiber. Writing with his professional partner Mike Stoller, they became one of the top teams of the 50s, 60s,and 70s. For the last decade, their music has become a staple on shows like American Idol, which dedicated a week to them on a few different occasions. The duo are perhaps best known for their song Stand By Me, which they co-wrote with Ben E. King who also recorded the most iconic version in 1961.

Hound Dog was first released in 1953 by Big Mama Thorton, to much critical praise. But it was brought into Pop History by a relative newcomer to the music industry, Elvis Presley. Here is Elvis singing it on Milton Berle's television show in 1956.

In 1963, Leiber and Stoller collaborated with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, another hugely successful team. There result was On Broadway, a Top 10 hit for The Drifters. It has since been covered by countless people, including by George Benson in a jazz-flavored version featured in the movie All That Jazz. But here is the original, sung by The Drifters.

In 1969, Miss Peggy Lee had what I would call an unlikely hit with another of their songs, Is That All There Is. The song is essentially an existential musing on the meaning of life.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Leiber.

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