Hoagy Carmichael, born Hoagland Carmichael on November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana, was a songwriter, a pianist and an actor. He died on December 27, 1981. Carmichael was one of Johnny Mercer’s chief collaborators throughout his career, although they did not get along very well at the beginning. Hoagy has stated that he believes the pair would have rivaled other top songwriters in their day if they had regularly collaborated as a team.
“Skylark” was published in 1942. Hoagy originally wrote the music for this song for a musical that was never produced. It was inspired by his friend Bix Beiderbecke, a jazz cornetist. Hoagy later played the music for Johnny Mercer but never heard back. He also provided Johnny with some initial draft lyrics. By the time Johnny got back to Hoagy with the final lyrics, Hoagy had forgotten the song and Johnny had to remind him!
“Lazybones” was originally performed in the 1933 MGM film Bombshell. Hoagy and Johnny had conflicting reports on how the song was written. Hoagy told a friend that the song was written very quickly, while Johnny said that it took him months to finalize the lyrics. This was Johnny Mercer’s first hit song, with a number one recording by Ted Lewis and His Band on Columbia Records. Louis Armstrong also recorded the song for Decca Records in 1939.
Johnny Mercer’s lyrics in “Lazybones” reflect his experiences of growing up in the South and what he perceived to be authentic Southern culture in songwriting. He did not appreciate other songs about Dixie by songwriters that had never been to the South. However, everyone did not appreciate his take on Southern life and experiences. In fact, Adolf Hitler banned the song outright in Germany, saying he felt it went against Nazi ideals and encouraged laziness.
“In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” was featured in the 1951 Paramount Pictures film Here Comes the Groom. The song won an Academy Award for Best Song. It was Mercer’s second Academy Award and Carmichael’s first.
The song was not originally written for Here Comes the Groom, but another movie called The Keystone Girl. Director Frank Capra heard the song and asked if he could use it for his film instead. The Academy Award was allowed to stand since the film had not been published or recorded before it was used in Here Comes the Groom.
Some other songs written by Hoagy and Johnny Mercer include: