Happy Birthday, Johnny and Mickey!
Today is the 100th birthday of singer and songwriter Johnny Mercer, famous for “Moon River” among a prodigious 1500-song oeuvre.
Mercer was born in Savannah and attended Woodberry Forest School in Madison County, Virginia, where he became interested in poetry and the theatre. He moved to New York, met and collaborated in songwriting with Hoagy Carmichael, and sang, emceed and wrote songs for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra radio show.
Then Hollywood beckoned. He wrote hundreds of songs for the movies, and cofounded Capitol Records.
Among his prolific output are “Skylark”, “That Old Black Magic”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Hooray for Hollywood”, “Laura”, “I Wanna Be Around”, “Summer Wind”, “How the West Was Won”, “Autumn Leaves”, and “Barefoot in the Park”.
Nineteen of Mercer’s songs were nominated for Academy Awards. Four (“Moon River”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe”, “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening”) won Oscars.
Mercer was an affable, well-liked fellow. Although he didn’t live in Savannah, he often visited and maintained friendships there. Mercer House, the home of his great grandfather, Hugh Mercer, is the central location of the atmospheric portrait of Savannah, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, and Johnny Mercer’s presence is felt throughout the tale, even though he had died before the sensational events of Berendt’s book. His music forms the soundtrack of the 1997 movie based on the book. You can read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” in print, listen to an excellent audio version, and view the movie by visiting the library.
The Turner Classic Movie channel is scheduled to run movies featuring Mercer songs all day today, and next Wednesday evening. TMC also presented a Clint Eastwood-produced documentary about the life and music of Johnny Mercer, “Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s on Me”, earlier this month and will no doubt repeat it.
If you would like to learn more about Johnny Mercer, you can find biographical information through Find It Virginia (look under Electronic Resources on the library’s webpage) and in “Portrait of Johnny: the life of John Herndon Mercer” by Gene Lees in the print collection.
Andy Williams made “Moon River” his signature song. You can read about his career in “Moon River and Me”.
And, for children, Jami Mcdonald recommends “Moon Rabbit” by Natalie Russell. “This delightful story is centered on a little rabbit who adores living amid the hustle and bustle of a large city. In the afternoons, she spends her time visiting her favorite cafes, frequenting local bookstores, and reading tons of books. In the evenings, however, the little rabbit tends to get very lonely. When she stands on her balcony and looks up at the stars, she wishes that she could find someone to spend time with. One day, the little rabbit is playing in a large park when she hears beautiful music wafting through the air. She investigates the source of the pleasant sound and discovers that friendship and love were only a very short distance away from her lovely home in the city. In “Moon Rabbit”, Natalie Russell spins an endearing tale of what it means to find friendship. Russell, who is well-known for her talents as a printmaker, has created a brilliantly colored world for the two main characters that is centered underneath a unique, checkerboard moon. While the book is written specifically with children in mind, adults will also find the illustrations and classic storyline appealing. Finally, though it is very subtle, the author’s homage to the song “Moon River” will also entertain many generations of readers.”
Today is also the birthday of Mickey Mouse, who first appeared in Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” the first animated cartoon talking picture, in 1928.
For more about these two icons of popular culture, visit the library at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541.