Mercer, Johnny

Mercer, Johnny (John Herndon Mercer) mûrˈsər [key], 1909–76, American lyricist and songwriter, b. Savannah, Ga. Mercer, who was one of American popular music's most accomplished wordsmiths, began writing songs as a teenager; in 1929 he moved to New York City, where he worked as an actor and a singer. In 1933 he had his first hit, “Lazybones,” with music by Hoagy Carmichael. Two years later he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote lyrics for numerous musicals and other movies. During his long career Mercer collaborated with many composers, including Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, Jimmy McHugh, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, and Marvin Hamlisch, writing the words for such classics as “Hooray for Hollywood” (1937), “Blues in the Night” (1941), “Skylark” (1942), “One for My Baby” (1943), and “Come Rain or Come Shine” (1946). He was nominated for 18 best-song Oscars and won four times, including for “Moon River” in 1961 and “Days of Wine and Roses” in 1962, both with music by Henry Mancini. Mercer cofounded (1942) Capitol Records.

See biographies by P. Furia (2003) and G. Lees (2004); R. Kimball, B. Day, M. Kreuger, and E. Davis, ed., The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer (2009).

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