Harold Arlen, born Hyman Arluck on February 15, 1905 in Buffalo, New York, was a leading composer of the Great American Songbook and one of Johnny Mercer’s main collaborators throughout his career. Arlen composed over 500 songs for films and theater productions, most notably composing songs for The Wizard of Oz.
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” was featured in the 1944 Paramount Pictures film Here Come the Waves. The song was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to “It Might as Well Be Spring” by Rodgers and Hammerstein II.
The idea for “Accentuate the Positive” came about after Johnny’s publicity agent went to see a sermon that was based on maintaining a positive attitude and pushing the negative out of your life. Johnny thought that it was a colorful concept and phrase. He recorded the song himself and it became a number-one selling record.
“Blues in the Night” was featured in the 1941 film of the same name. The original title of the film was actually Hot Nocturne but it was changed to match the name of the Mercer and Arlen song. “Blues in the Night” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but lost to Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “The Last Time I Saw Paris”.
There was a lot of excitement surrounding this song from Mercer and Arlen’s friends. After they wrote it, Johnny called Margaret Whiting and asked if they could come over and play it for her. She happened to be having dinner with Mel Torme, Judy Garland, Martha Raye and Mickey Rooney, who were thrilled with the tune after they heard it.
“Come Rain or Come Shine“ was written for the 1946 theatre production St. Louis Woman. The song is Mercer’s most popular Broadway show song and is considered to be his only Broadway hit. They asked Margaret Whiting to record the song and released it after St. Louis Woman opened. During the recording process, Margaret took a chance and sang the words differently than they were written. Mercer was not happy with her impromptu decision and went to scold her before Arlen told him that he loved the way she sang it.
“One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” was featured in the 1943 RKO Radio Pictures film The Sky’s The Limit. The song was not immediately popular when the film was released, but did eventually become a standard classic popular song. Fred Astaire said that it was one of the best pieces of material ever written for him.
Other songs written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer are: