by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the birthdays of two outstanding musical talents of the 20th century, one a legendary songwriter and the other the "First Lady of Jazz."
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) with partner Mike Stoller (March 13, 1933) were two of the greatest songwriters of rock and roll, and wrote some of the most famous songs of the second half of the 20th century over a 60 year collaboration. Mike wrote the tunes and Jerry wrote the lyrics for such amazing songs as "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Love Me," "King Creole," "Yakety Yak," "Searchin'," "Young Blood," "Love Potion #9," "Kansas City," "Charlie Brown," "Drip Drop," "Poison Ivy," "Stand By Me," "Spanish Harlem," "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block #9," "On Broadway," and the immortal Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," among the many that shaped a couple of generations of musical fans.
They created the hits of the 50s and 60s, and their songs were done by many of the greatest of rock and rollers, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Dion, the Coasters, the Drifters and Ben E. King. They created a joyous new musical songwriting style by combining blues, jazz, and pop in a sound that captivated millions over decades. They also produced more major hits than I can list here.
Over their career, they had 15 No. 1 hits in a variety of genres by 10 different artists. Among the performers who took their hits to the top of the charts we can include Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Otis Redding.
… they created a string of ground-breaking hits that are some of the most entertaining in rock and roll, by using the humorous vernacular of the teenagers sung in a style that was openly theatrical rather than personal, songs that include “Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” and “Yakety Yak.” They were the first to surround black music with elaborate production values, enhancing its emotional power with the Drifters in “There Goes My Baby” and influencing Phil Spector who worked with them on recordings of the Drifters and Ben E. King. Leiber and Stoller went into the record business and, focusing on the “girl group” sound, released some of the greatest classics of the Brill Building period.
Here are a few of the songs that made the team of Leiber and Stoller immortals:
From the Steve Allen show in 1956, Elvis doing "Hound Dog."
From the movie, here's "Jailhouse Rock"
From Elvis' 1968 comeback special, here's the King performing "Love Me"
By the Coasters, their timeless teen age lament, "Yakety Yak"
From 1957, a great live performance by the original Coasters on the Steve Allen show of “Searchin’”
From 1958, also with King Curtis on sax, the original studio version by the Coasters of “Three Cool Cats”
From 1959, the Coasters in the original studio version of "Poison Ivy"
From 1965, the Coasters in a live performance of “Along Came Jones”
Here’s a later vintage of the Coasters in a live performance of “Young Blood”
Here are the very early Beatles in an audio-only version of “Young Blood”And for a third version, from “the Concert for Bangladesh,” a really fantastic delivery by the great Leon Russell preaching the gospel of “Young Blood” (You really should catch this one!)
From 1954, the Robins’ original studio version of “There’s A Riot Going On (Up In Cell Block Number 9)”
Here's the great Ben E. King, ex-lead singer of the Drifters in their immortal Atlantic era, doing his signature hit, "Stand By Me"
Here's Ben E. King doing another of his greatest, "Spanish Harlem"
Jay and the Americans doing the very funny "Come A Little Bit Closer"
From 1959 on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show hosted by Dick Clark, here’s Wilbert Harrison in a live performance of Kansas City”
And from 1964, here are the Beatles live on Shindig with Paul singing the lead on “Kansas City”
We'll close today with one of my faves when I was too young to mention. Here's Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock" doing the Leiber-Stoller hit, "(You're so square) Baby I Don't Care." For another great version, here's Buddy Holly doing "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)"
You can check out both of these legendary songwriters at the official Leiber-Stoller website
You can check out more at the Jerry Lieber site at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
Thanks for all the fabulous tunes across the decades, Jerry! Glad Mike is still with us. You two are truly in the immortal greats of rock and roll!
Our other birthday celebration is the First Lady of Jazz, one of the greatest voices of the 20th century! Recently the spotlight of our “Saturday Night Attitude” dance brought her to center stage, and today we revisit this fantastic talent.
Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was a transcendent performer, and certain one of the all-time greats of scat singing, as well as interpreting standards as few others could. From Wikipedia:
Over the course of her 59-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush….
Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness." Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady be Good!" (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.
From the same source, we read she recorded the Cole Porter Songbook, the Duke Ellington Songbook, toured all over the world, and was universally loved and respected when she left us at age 79. She collaborated with the vocal quartet Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the guitarist Joe Pass, and the bandleaders Count Basie and Duke Ellington. She was, and is, very simply, “the First Lady of Song” and “The Queen of Jazz.” For your enjoyment, a reprise of our Saturday Night Attitude dancing set of a few weeks ago!
From 1979 in Montreaux, Ella doing her first big scat hit, the rockin’ “Flyin’ Home”
We got more great live scat for happy feet! From 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show, here’s Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Junior cookin’ on “’S Wonderful”
We head back to the 1979 Montreaux show where Ella belts out “Sweet Georgia Brown”
Here’s one of my faves done as only Ella could! “All of Me” (It’s clipped about 10 seconds before the end of the song, and leads into part 2 with Ella singing “I’m Gonna To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”
These aren’t exactly dance tunes, but they’re a great listen while you’re resting up for the next jump!
From 1969, “One Note Samba”
Nat King Cole and Ella doing a live duet of “It’s All Right With Me”
On a lighter, more “contemporary” note, from 1970 here’s a video of Ella and Tom Jones doing a very jazzed up version of “Sunny” (While sitting in rocking chairs? Wow.)
For our finale, here’s Ella and the 4tet in 1965 Helsinki doing a cool set!
We’ll close this with Ella and A Duke Ellington Medley
For the very danceable encore, here’s Ella doing an amazing version of the classic “Mack The Knife”
Ms Ella, you left the world a treasure of beautiful and classy music. Thanks for lifting our spirits and raising the bar for all jazz singers to come!
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson