|Leiber & Stoller with The Coasters and others. Jerry's at the piano on the left|
(the one without the goatee.)
Jerry Leiber, who with partner Mike Stoller constituted half of what I believe to be the greatest songwriting team of the rock 'n' roll era, would have been 86 today.
The New York Times talked about Leiber & Stoller in Jerry's obit after he died in 2011:
The team of Leiber and Stoller was formed in 1950, when Mr. Leiber was still a student at Fairfax High in Los Angeles and Mr. Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. With Mr. Leiber contributing catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Mr. Stoller, a pianist, composing infectious, bluesy tunes, they set about writing songs with black singers and groups in mind.
In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,”“Loving You,”“Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”
In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.
In honor of Jerry's birthday, here are just a handful of my favorite Leiber & Stoller songs.
Let's start out with one about my town, as performed by Hank Snow
I used to perform this Lavern Baker favorite one myself back in the day
Leiber & Stoller wrote this for The Drifters. But I've always loved Neil Young's version. "Give me some of that crack!"
And this one was for the Coasters, but Sam the Sham did a good job on it
Speaking of The Coasters, nearly all the songs we remember them for were penned by Jerry & Mike. On this one, the dynamic duo were aided by the great Doc Pomus, one of the other great songwriters of that era.
Leiber & Stoller also were responsible for a lot more Elvis songs than "Hound Dog." This one, the title song from his second movie, is one of the King's most lovely ballads: