Some years ago when I was still living in Greenwich Village, my immediate upstairs co-owner and I were good friends. Our tiny, three-unit condominium was a 200-year-old townhouse built to different standards than today so there was not much between my ceiling and her floor but air. Even so, when neighbor-type issues such as leaks and noise occurred, we worked them out amicably.
After several years of solutions, I thought we had pretty much resolved everything that could go wrong until one evening there suddenly emanated from upstairs a blast of Skylark as loud and clear and true as if I had cranked it up on my own player to top volume. I don’t remember which songs followed, but it didn’t take long to figure out that they were all Johnny Mercer tunes sung by the man himself on an album that I too owned.
So I didn’t say anything; I just enjoyed.
A couple of nights later it happened again – same songs, same album. And again in a week or so and I just kept listening.
There are other good lyricists, but few turned out as much delightfully good work as Johnny Mercer and he sang his own tunes as well or better than anyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t much video of that, but here is one, Jamboree Jones from an old Rosemary Clooney show in which Mercer sings with the Hi-Los. [3:58 minutes]
For Johnny Mercer singing his own songs, I’m stuck with what’s online which isn’t much and are not necessarily my favorites. But for me, there are not any bad Mercer lyrics. This is Mercer singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Margaret Whiting. [3:09 minutes]
On rare occasions, Mercer wrote the music to go with his lyrics as he did with this song, Something’s Gotta Give, introduced by Fred Astaire in this scene from the movie, Daddy Long Legs in which he costarred with Leslie Caron. It was released in 1955. [6:43 minutes]
Mercer’s output was so large that it’s hard to keep in mind that he wrote some well-known, old favorites which seem to have always been with us. I didn’t recall that Glow Worm is his, sung here on The Nat King Cole Show by The Mills Brothers. [1:57 minutes]
Mercer wrote what I consider the best torch song of all time - a great, good tearjerker, One for My Baby. God, I love this song and no one (except Mercer himself who took a more light-hearted approach to it) ever sang it like Sinatra in his prime, as in this 1971 concert in London. [6:06 minutes]
Hardly anyone but Rosemary Clooney and Mercer himself recorded this World War II gem, G.I. Jive. The video includes vintage photos of U.S. Army soldiers during the War. [4:02 minutes]
The annual Academy Awards bash is tonight and because Mercer wrote songs for so many movies in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, it is a good day to include his Hooray for Hollywood (this one sung by Doris Day) which the band will undoubtedly play during the ceremony. [2:58 minutes]
Everyone likes to celebrate round numbers with a zero at the end and November 18 will be the centennial of Johnny Mercer's birth. For those who would like to be reminded of the astonishing number of wonderful songs he has left us, here is a long (although still incomplete) list with names of some of the artists who have recorded them.
Oh, wait – one more thing: eventually I told my upstairs neighbor about the Mercer music flooding my apartment. She apologized and moved her new speakers off the floor and onto a table.