Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Jerry Leiber RIP
Jerry Leiber dies at 78; lyricist in songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller
Leiber and Stoller's first No. 1 hit was Elvis Presley's 'Hound Dog.' They also wrote for the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King and many other artists.
Jerry Leiber, who with his songwriting partner Mike Stoller, created a songbook that infused the rock 'n' roll scene of the 1950s and early '60s with energy and mischievous humor, has died. He was 78.
Leiber, the words half of the duo, died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of cardiopulmonary failure, said Randy Poe, president of the songwriters' music publishing company.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Leiber and his lifelong writing partner, Stoller, wrote hits that included Elvis Presley's rat-a-tat-tat rendition of "Hound Dog" in 1956 and Peggy Lee's 1969 recording of the jaded "Is That All There Is?"
But they may be best remembered for the ebullient, impudent hits written for black groups like the Clovers ("Love Potion No. 9"), the Drifters ("Ruby Baby"); the Cheers ("Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots"), the Robins ("Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block No. 9") and, especially, a Robins' spinoff group that Leiber and Stoller helped create, the Coasters ("Searchin'," "Yakety Yak," "Poison Ivy," "Charlie Brown," "Down in Mexico," "Little Egypt").
As Leiber-Stoller biographer Robert Graham wrote, the Coasters' songs "were arguably the most enduring and hands-down funniest records of the rock 'n' roll era."
They were barely 18 when they had their first brush with success with Charles Brown's 1951 recording of "Hard Times."
But it was a white singer who could sing R&B — Presley — who five years later gave Leiber and Stoller their first No. 1 hit on the pop charts, "Hound Dog," a song they had written several years earlier for Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, whom Leiber described as "the saltiest chick we'd ever seen."
Leiber and Stoller — never were their names mentioned in the opposite order — were amazed that Presley chose a song told from a woman's point of view about kicking out a no-account man. They didn't like the way Presley sang it — too fast and nervous. And Leiber was not pleased that Presley picked up some erroneous lyrics: "You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine."