Who Is Johnny Mercer and Why Should I Care Anyway?
So Very Very: Remembering Johnny Mercer
Two Shows - 2 & 7:30 pm - Mother's Day
Sunday, May 10, at Music Over Manhattan
I had vaguely heard the name Johnny Mercer, but I didn't know when I sat in with a jazz band and sang Satin Doll that I was singing Johnny Mercer's lyrics (and music by Duke Ellington). I had no idea that Come Rain or Come Shine was by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. I didn't know the lyric for Moon River was written on the back of an envelope on the way to the airport by the very same Johnny Mercer.
His songs were so popular for so long, they've become part of our culture, and, like many others, I thought of them as of their time. I associated them with what I thought were old fashioned arrangements and maybe a bit of glitz. But when I heard the song "I'm Old Fashioned" as done by Cassandra Wilson, I could hear the bare bones of the song (music by Jerome Kern), and I loved it. I discovered more and more songs with Johnny Mercer lyrics. The more I found out about him, the more I appreciated Mercer.
He was born in Savannah, Georgia, and he grew up in the midst of Southern culture, white and black. He knew and loved the music pouring out of New York too, songs by Irving Berlin and the Gershwins and so many other great writers in the early decades of the 20th Century.
Mercer had success as a singer before his writing took off. (Hmmm. A singer/songwriter?) Then for 20 years, from the mid-1930's to the mid 1950's, his creations dominated the popular song charts. According to Oscar Hammerstein, he was "the most perfect American lyricist alive. American. Pure American." Yip Harburg called him "one of our great folk poets."
I'm thrilled to be part of So Very Very: Remembering Johnny Mercer, with a narrative by playwright Calvin Ramsey. You'll hear many surprising stories about the life of Johnny Mercer along with the songs.
You're going to love the richness of the melodies and the wit and power of the lyrics.
David Buskin will be singing along with me. You might know him and his humor from Buskin & Batteau and Modern Man. He's a fabulous musician and no slouch as a writer himself.
Jay Leonhart is on bass and vocals. He's played with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland to Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, James Taylor, Ozzy Osbourne and Queen Latifah. He writes and sings his own songs, often wickedly funny.
Prominent guitarist Avi Rothbard rounds out this literally awesome assemblage.
Well, I'm in awe, but I'm also having gigantic fun singing these songs with these people. Can you tell I really really want you to come to this show?
Tickets are on sale now. $30 per person. Pay using PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by check to Thomas Boyd, 251 W. 19th Street, NYC 10011. All seats are paid in advance. Seating is limited and going fast.
If you're in New England, please make plans to come see me on one of the first four Mondays in June. I'll be playing and singing with Geoff Bartley and other talented musicians at the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thanks so much for reading along. Take a peek at inamaywool.com to see some video, hear music, look at pictures, buy a CD, if you've a mind to. Pass this message on to any friends you think might be interested. Hope to see you soon!