Lieber & Stoller
Mike Stoller accepts his SCL Ambassador Award from SCL President Dan Foliart
SCL Vice-President Arthur Hamilton’s remarks, December 14, 2011:
Their partnership began in 1950–when they were 17 years old. For the following 61 years, they gave us songs to sing along with, dance to, make love to, and hand down to our children and their children. Their songs reflected every tempo and mood of every decade since 1950. They wrote Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Country, Jazz, Cabaret and (perhaps most notably) Rock & Roll.
They are Lieber & Stoller. Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists is proud to honor them tonight by adding their names to our imposing list of SCL Ambassadors.
SCL President Dan Foliart’s remarks:
To say that Leiber and Stoller changed the life of a young man from Tupelo, Mississippi would not be an over statement. To say that Leiber and Stoller were responsible for as many hit songs as any other writers of their time would not be an over statement. To even say that Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber changed the course of music would not be an overstatement. And certainly to say that these writers had a significant impact on my life is not an over statement, it’s the God’s honest truth.
Jerry and Mike were born a few weeks apart, Mike growing up in Queens, Jerry in Baltimore. They both, however, moved to Los Angeles and their lives converged in a most fortuitous way. Although Mike’s taste was as disparate as Bartok and Monk, he found the common bond in his and Jerry’s mutual love for black music in the form of blues and Boogie Woogie. In a time when racial barriers ran deep and the music of Patty Page and Big Mama Thornton redefined the phrase “never the twain shall meet,” Leiber and Stoller forged a path of their own that bridged that gap and within the course of less than a decade made household names of groups such as the Coasters, Clovers and the Drifters.
Perhaps the most significant liaison was between the duo and that young man from Mississippi, who reworked the Big Mama Thornton earlier hit record of Hound Dog into a reprise smash hit. Although they were less than pleased with Elvis’ change of lyric, it nevertheless became a partnership that produced some of the greatest hits of the King’s career. Film songs such as the title songs Lovin You and Jailhouse Rock along with Bossa Nova Baby, Little Egypt, and records such as Love Me, Trouble, (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care, and Treat Me Nice and Santa Claus is Back in Town were just a few of the hits that defined his career. Elvis and Leiber and Stoller had a special bond and Presley on more than one occasion referred to them as his good luck charm.
Although Colonel Parker was reluctant to let the duo spend too much time with his bread and butter, that didn’t keep Jerry from honing his producing chops in adding immeasurably to Elvis’ studio recordings. In fact, another consummate producer, Burt Bacharach, gives Mike and Jerry the ultimate respect for shaping the success of many of the hit records of the era, marked by their production expertise. Over the course of their careers they started record companies, publishing companies and were two of the now legendary members of the Brill Building group of writers and publishers.
Elvis was only one of many artists that felt the magic of the songwriting genius of Leiber and Stoller. The catalogue of hits and standards penned by the duo plays like a cavalcade of the era. Just a few include Yakety, Yak, Charlie Brown, Spanish Harlem, Love Potion Number 9, I’m a Woman, Ruby Baby, Stand By Me, Young Blood, Along Came Jones, Is That All There Is, and one of my true favorites, Kansas City.
Among the many awards that have been bestowed on them are their inclusion in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and recipient of the Johnny Mercer Award from the National Academy of Popular Music. Their Smokey Joe’s Café received the Grammy for Best Cast Album in 1995. A fabulous autobiography, Hound Dog, came out recently and Mike, I’ve got to tell you, I can’t put it down. Mike is currently working on a musical with his longtime friend, Artie Butler and Iris Rainer Dart called The People in the Picture.