Georgia Boy Makes Good!

I just finished a biography of Johnny Mercer, perhaps the greatest lyricist of popular songs of all time. He was a Savannah native born into a complex family with both the genteel quality and the Gothic intrigue of the Old South. Mercer wrote the lyrics for over 1,000 songs in his career which ran from the1920s into the 1960s. He couldn’t read music, but sometimes he could hear a melody and write beautiful words for it in 10 minutes. In the 1940s one of the most popular radio programs was, “Your Hit Parade” which rated the top ten songs in the nation. One week Mercer had 3 songs in the top ten with one of them the #1 song in the nation. He won three Oscars for “Best Song” from movies.

Mercer started Capital Records in Los Angeles, the first recording industry in the western U.S. He was generous to everyone, helping the careers of most of the singers in the Golden Age of Music (Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Margaret Whiting, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, etc.) and also giving aid to struggling young songwriters. And yet, when he became drunk, he turned into a vile monster once telling the famous actress Helen Hayes to “go fuck yourself.” His drunken outbursts were always followed by remorse the following day when he would send an apologetic note and a room full of roses to the offended parties.

He went from being penniless to become a millionaire, yet he never cared much for money and was absent minded about it. He once threw a royalty check of thousands of dollars into the fireplace, while day-dreaming about some song he was writing lyrics for.

I’ve often had people at gatherings, who find out that I have published a number of novels and stories, say something like, “You know, I’ve had such an interesting life, I think I’ll write a book.” I always answer them with a, “Good Luck with that.”

A woman once approached Mercer and said, “I’ve thought about writing songs myself; what technique do you use?” Mercer answered, “Well, first I think of a title. And, then, I just get out my rhyming dictionary.” Which, of course, was a put-on but the woman went away thinking she had the “secret” to becoming a rich and famous song writer.

Mercer made song writing look easy. Talented people, in all fields, do that but it was hard work. If you listen to an oldies or a jazz radio station, chances are that you’ll hear several Mercer songs that have become standards. Oddly, people who have not a creative bone in their bodies see a talent that God gives to someone as something “easy” to utilize. Talent is nothing without hard work to back it up. Johnny Mercer, in spite of the inner demons that booze brought out in him, had a ton of talent and he worked hard. The beautiful music he gave us will last forever.

About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on and available from . .
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1 Response to Georgia Boy Makes Good!

  1. Jacquelyn Rush-Kozacek says:

    These are must reads for anyone who loves good writing and good adventure.

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