JOE BLITMAN'S
FASHION & CELEBRITY DOLLS
2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 22




16 Dartmouth Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
323-953-6490

 
joeblitman@aol.com





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JOHNNY MERCER




1909-1976

Johnny Mercer, born to privilege in Savannah, Georgia, was a master lyricist, an occasional composer, and a frequent professional singer of his own (and others’) songs. 



In the early 1930's, in the midst of a fitful singing career, he began to write hits -- and then went on to dominate the “Hit Parade” in the 1940’s. 

He was nominated for Best Song Oscars 19 times -- and won four of the golden statuettes. 




Some of the songwriters we've spotlighted in this Holiday Advent Calendar are what we think of as “indoor” lyricists -- those whose songs radiate “urban” (think Cole Porter, as an example).

Mercer is definitely “outdoor” -- and wonderfully southern. 

He was supremely comfortable writing about birds, nature, rivers, breezes, the echoing sound of faraway train whistles, and the like.   These were all the sounds, sights, and smells of his childhood.




Johnny Mercer’s lyrics were conversational and often relied on the vernacular. 

Listening to the way he used words was the aural equivalent of comfort food.   Southern Comfort.


The doll equivalent of comfort food might just be the doll-related items from our website that we are featuring today:




MONIQUE L'HUILLIER
BRIDE BARBIE
(2006)
NRFB
$239.99


SWEETHEART SATIN
(1972)
NRFC
$199.00


ENAMORADA NATALIA FATALE
2020 W CLUB EXCLUSIVE
(2021)
NRFB
$299.99


FRIDAY NIGHT DATE
(1960)
Excellent+ & Complete
$79.00

SOLD - SORRY


JUST FOR FUN
(SKIPPER PAK)
(1965)
NRFP
$119.99

SOLD - SORRY


BARBIE as ELIZA
THE FLOWER SELLER
in "MY FAIR LADY"
(1996)
$14.99


SMASHIN' SATIN - SHOE
Single Light-Blue Shoe
(Unique to this outfit)
(1972)
(Very Rare)
Mint
$50.00


SUBURBAN SHOPPER
(1959)
Excellent+/Near Mint
& Complete
$109.00

SOLD - SORRY


THE COMBINATION
(FRANCIE OUTFIT)
(1969)
NRFB
$299.00

SOLD - SORRY


BEST TO A TEA
20th ANNIVERSARY SILKSTONE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN
(2020)
NRFB
$89.99


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT



Johnny Mercer wrote with many different composers.
 

He liked to get the music first, then come up with a title, and then work on the lyric. 

But he wasn’t fast.  There were some lyrics he took so long to complete that the composers forgot they had given him the music.

Among Mercer's early collaborators was Richard Whiting at Warner Brothers. 




Two of their songs stand out.

Hooray For Hollywood” -- which has become the unofficial theme song for tinseltown:


and

Too Marvelous for Words”  -- a song that Busby Berkeley turned into a surrealistic extravaganza.  (Talk about a typewriter song  -- Leroy Anderson, eat your heart out!)



[We'll save you from having to do a Google search on the word “panegyric.”   It means "an oral or written statement given in praise of a person."]

Some of the songs for which Mercer wrote the lyrics reappeared 20 years later, recorded by rock ’n roll singers.
 





Here's Rick Nelson’s rendition of “Fools Rush In":



Johnny Mercer wrote at least three songs that feature trains.
 




#1 -- The earliest was “I Thought About You,” recorded by Mildred Bailey with the Benny Goodman orchestra in 1939:




#2 -- “Blues in the Night” -- with train references -- was a big hit for Dinah Shore in 1942. 




Forty years later, at the Lincoln Center televised farewell performance of Beverly Sills, Shore gave a master class in how to sing this classic blues song:

Here's a behind-the-scenes tidbit:

In the early 40’s, while Mercer was married and Judy Garland was engaged, Johnny (31) and Judy (18) had a torrid affair.
 




On July 17, 1941 -- at the same moment Mercer was asking his wife, Ginger, for a divorce -- Walter Winchell reported on the radio that Garland (who had just turned 19) and her fiance, David Rose (who had just turned 31), had just eloped to Las Vegas.
 




Mercer was stunned -- and fell into a long depression.

One of the songs that comments on his despair over "l’affair Garland" is “Blues in the Night.”

Which might make the third train song -- “On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe” -- seem a tad surprising.
 




It was written for Garland to sing in the 1946 movie “The Harvey  Girls.”   




Perhaps it's a trifle less surprising, given that Judy and David Rose had gotten divorced in 1944.

And, apparently, "l'affair Garland" hadn't quite ended.

Johnny and Judy periodically rekindled their romance well into the 1960’s, and she went on singing his songs until the end of her career.

Of course, the Academy Award for Best Song that Mercer and Harry Warren won might have also served as some sort of consolation prize.




In 1942, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records with two other men. 




The first record the company released was an album of 78’s of Mercer singing. 




Capitol Records went on to become a powerhouse label, with artists such as Nat King Cole,



Peggy Lee,



Frank Sinatra,



and…

SURPRISE!

…Judy Garland.





The founders sold the business to the British firm, EMI, in 1955, at which time the iconic Capitol Records building -- which looks like a stack of records on a record player -- was built in Hollywood.





Mercer frequently returned home to Savannah, and he liked to attend Sunday services at the local black churches.
 





He had heard one sermon, the title of which was “Accentuate the Positive.” 




You never know when inspiration will strike:



Although he wrote a number of Broadway scores and even had two hit shows:

“Top Banana” with Phil Silvers





and “Lil Abner”




the only hit song Mercer ever had that came from a Broadway score was from one of his flops:

Come Rain or Come Shine,” written with Harold Arlen for “St. Louis Woman”:




Here is Bette Midler in the movie “For the Boys,”
 





making it perfectly clear what the lyrics are really about:


 
Mercer’s second Oscar win was for a song he wrote with Hoagy Carmichael:

 

Here it is given a very whacked-out performance by Jane Wyman and Bing Crosby in the movie "Here Comes the Groom," apparently singing live:



With “Something’s Gotta Give,” from the 1955 movie “Daddy Long Legs,”




Mercer -- acting as both lyricist and composer -- tried musically to solve the problem of Fred Astaire being so much older than his leading lady, Leslie Caron (by 33 years). 

Having Astaire refer to himself as being “an old immovable object” and having “an old implacable heart” acknowledges the age difference and does what it can to stop people from accusing Fred of robbing the cradle.



For his third Oscar, Mercer teamed up with composer Henry Mancini




for a fire escape song warbled by Audrey Hepburn.


 


Needless-to-say, there were studio execs who wanted to cut the song.



Philistines!



The next year, Mercer and Mancini struck gold again,
 





winning Mercer his 4th Oscar for "The Days of Wine and Roses."





Within a few years, the demand for Mercer’s songs and those of his peers pretty much dried up. 

The dominance of rock ’n roll and the coming wave of contemporary singer/songwriters squeezed out the old guard, who were left to stay at home and count their royalties.

But before we conclude this salute to Johnny Mercer, let us give you a half dozen or so fabulous songs enriched by his wonderful lyrics.



Jeepers Creepers,
sung here by Frank Sinatra





Day In, Day Out,
sung here by Nat King Cole





That Old Black Magic,
swung here by Louis Prima and Keely Smith






Autumn Leaves,
with Doris Day singing the English lyrics that
Mercer wrote for a French song called "Les Feuilles Mortes"






Satin Doll,
performed here by Duke Ellington
(who co-composed the music)
and Ella Fitzgerald





Glow Worm,
with new lyrics
and popularized by the Mills Brothers


To wind up this Mercer panegyric, here’s the haunting “I Remember You,” sung by Diana Krall:





Mercer’s friends knew that the lyrics to this song were all about Johnny Mercer and Judy Garland. 







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