Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lawd, Have Mercer... Love Songs of Johnny Mercer

Emmy Rossum photo Emmy_Rossum_zps7d1921f7.jpg Maxine Sullivan photo maxine_sullivan_zps248e9c3a.jpg
Barbra Streisand photo barbra-streisand_zps8fd73ce6.jpg Billie Holiday photo Billie_Holiday_zps41e419c8.jpg
Clockwise: Emmy Rossum; Maxine Sullivan; Billie Holiday; and Barbra Streisand.

Since it has been rather hot and humid in the Mid-Atlantic region, I was in the mood for some song of summer when I was putting this post together. While going through my iTunes - yes, I have a stupid amount of music on my external drive - I came across the song "Summer Wind". I had two versions, one by Lyle Lovett, and the other my Westlife. As I thought about the song, I remembered it had lyrics by the great Johnny Mercer, and there you have it, the birth of a post. So that left with the duty to find the songs and artists I wanted to include. First up, I wanted to see how many people have recorded "Summer Wind", and I was intrigued with the notion that Emmy Rossum had. Now, I knew Emmy could sing, but have been enjoying her on the Showtime series 'Shameless' so much, I'd forgotten about it. I hadn't realized she released 'Sentimental Journey', a collection of classic songs from the 1920s to the 1960s. Honestly, I really enjoy her version of the first song, written in 1965 by Mercer with Heinz Meier. So here is Emmy Rossum singing "Summer Wind".

Since I was picking songs by Johnny Mercer, there is no way I could ignore a beautiful song like "Skylark", with lyrics by Mercer, and music by the great Hoagy Carmichael. It was long rumored Merer wrote the lyrics while trying to get over an affair he had with Judy Garland, who at the time was engaged to another man. While I have no idea if that is true or not, it would certainly explain the very real melancholy in the song. The song was written in 1941, with wonderful eraly recordings by Anita O'Day and Helen Forrest. However, I decided to go with the lovely recording by Maxine Sullivan. In 1947, Sullivan recorded teh song with the Ellis Larkins Trio. Please enjoy Maxine Sullivan singing "Skylark".

There are just a few songs it seems so very wrong to not include in any discussion of the man. For my money, the top of the list would be the song with music by Henry Mancini, written for the iconic 1961 film, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. It was sung in the movie by the wonderful Audry Hepburn, and a recording by Mancini and his chorus became a hit. Almost immediately, it became a classic, and sung by many. Singer Andy Williams became closely identified with his recording. But I opted to go with a truly beautiful recording by one of my favorite singers of all time. Yes, I am speaking of the great Barbra Streisand, who recorded "Moon River" for her 2003 release 'The Movie Album'. I love it.

And, for the last song of the evening, I have to chuckle, for it is the second of the four that has also been affiliated with the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. On the final night Johnny Carson hosted the tonight show, he invited Middle to be his final guest, and that she sing a particular song, one of his favorites. That song was "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)", written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for the 1943 movie musical 'The Sky's the Limit'. While the movie might not be remembered as one of the greats from the period, this song definitely is. It has been sung by the best the music business has to offer, but there is one that stands out to me. I just love the recording by Billie Holiday, off her 1957 album 'Songs for Distingué Lovers'. So here is 'Lady Day' singing "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)".

I hope you enjoyed this visit to Mercer-land. I know I did.

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