Jerry Leiber RIP
Jerry Leiber, one of the greatest songwriters of all time is dead. He died of cardiopulmonary failure earlier today. He was 78 years old.
The list of classic songs he wrote with Mike Stoller would overflow this blog.
Over a 61 year long career, with Stoller, he wrote songs that defined rock n roll including hits for Elvis Presley (“Hound Dog,”Â “Jailhouse Rock”Â) and a number of rhythm and blues stars (“Stand By Me,”Â “Young Blood,”Â “On Broadway”Â). These are songs that are the building blocks of modern pop music and stand the test of time, they may have been performed by the best but they were brilliant songs in their own right.
Born in Baltimore, Leiber moved to Los Angeles where he met Stoller at high school. The pair bonded over their love of early blues and R&B, and they began wrting together almost immediately and pretty soon were re-defining the oncoming rock n roll era.
Stoller wrote the music and Leiber the words They sold their first song in 1950, and by 1952 scored their first real hit with the great “Kansas City.”Â (later covered by the Beatles) In 1953, the pair formed their own record label, but really took off in 1956 when Elvis Presley took “Hound Dog”Â (which Leiber and Stoller had originally penned for Big Mama Thornton) and turned it into a gigantic hit when he performed it on The Milton Berle Show”âthe notorious television appearance of Elvis’s swinging hips.
Elvis was a key part of Leiber and Stoller’s success because of his continued use of their songs (including “Jailhouse Rock,”Â “Don’t,”Â and “Loving You”Â).
They were also blossoming producers”âeven Phil Spector apprenticed under them for a time. Though they last had a major hit in 1972 (they produced Steeler’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You,”Â), their impact on early rock and roll and by extension all pop culture is secure.
Leiber, along with Stoller, is in both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a whole new generation was introduced to their music via Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a lavish Broadway musical review that included 39 of the duo’s classic hits. And, of course, they got their very own episode of American Idol earlier this year. But they transcend such weak modern awards, the songs themselves stand the test of time and are standards.