Both Oscar Hammerstein 11 and Alan Jay Lerner called Johnny Mercer the best-known songwriter of his generation, which spanned four decades of unforgettable music. Treasured lyrics include some extremely well-known tunes like Moon River, Laura, That Old Black Magic, Autumn Leaves, Satin Doll, Skylark, Summer Wind, the list is long and impressive.
Mercer contributed over 1,500 songs to the Great American Songbook, wrote for 90 Hollywood movies and co-wrote seven New York style musicals. A collaborator with over 230 music composers, Mercer founded the Songwriters Hall of Fame to protect and acknowledge songwriters.
He also co-founded Capitol Records and raised the quality of recordings. His favorite passion was scouting for new talent to bring into Capitol Records to record, like discovering Nat King Cole as the velvet vocalist, known at the time as only a top notch singer’s piano player. He also coaxed Peggy Lee out of marriage retirement to record “Is That All There Is” which put her back on the charts. Capitol Records was the only record company that would re-sign the teenage popular has-been, Frank Sinatra. Mercer coached Sinatra to sing with more sensitivity and vulnerability to appeal to the public, and it’s those recordings that live on as we continue to hear to this day.