Monday, August 22, 2011

In Memoriam: Jerry Leiber 1933-2011

Songwriter. "Hound Dog" "Jailhouse Rock" "Yakety Yak" "Charlie Brown" "Stand By Me" "Love Potion No 9" "Spanish Harlem" "I'm a Woman" "Is That All There Is?"

"Jerry was an idea machine...For every situation, Jerry had 20 ideas. As would-be songwriters, our interest was in black music and black music only. We wanted to write songs for black voices. When Jerry sang, he sounded black, so that gave us an advantage . . . His verbal vocabulary was all over the place – black, Jewish, theatrical, comical. He would paint pictures with words."

--Mike Stoller, Leiber's longtime collaborator. Stoller mostly concentrated on the music, Leiber mostly the lyrics.

"I felt black...I was as far as I was concerned. And I wanted to be black for lots of reasons. They were better musicians, they were better athletes, they were not uptight about sex, and they knew how to enjoy life better than most people."

--Jerry Leiber With the exception of Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee, and a few others, Leiber and Stoller wrote mostly for black artists.

The sad sack was a sittin' on a block of stone
way over in the corner weepin' all alone.
The warden said, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no square.
If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair."
Let's rock Everybody, let's rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock.

--Performed by Elvis Presley

I didn't know if it was day or night
I started kissin' everything in sight
But when I kissed a cop down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine
He broke my little bottle of Love Potion Number Nine

--Performed by the Clovers.

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

--Performed by Ben E. King

I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
If that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself,
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

--Performed by Peggy Lee.


  1. Hmm . . if I died and someone called me an "idea machine", I'd fell I had been revered. "Stand By Me" - my GOD - by WHOMEVER! Who cares who sings it. It is profound.

    I recently became deep friends with a black person. The blackness is beside ANY point. And, yet, go define "soul", "soulful" . . just thinking out loud.

  2. @Leslie--I don't really care if "Stand By Me" is sung by a white or black person (though it certainly helps if that white or black person is Ben E. King). I merely chose that quote to give you some idea, artistically, where Jerry Leiber was coming from.


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