I was sad to hear of Jerry Lieber’s death this week at the age of 78 – he was the words guy in that astonishing songwriting partnership Lieber and Stoller who have left a legacy of inspiring, uplifting songs that will always make me want to get on up out of my seat.
Astonishing is the word. It is not just the twenty Elvis Presley hits, including Hound Dog , Jailhouse Rock and King Creole but all those other songs too: Spanish Harlem, Leader Of The Pack, Chapel Of Love, Yakety Yak and Poison Ivy to name just a few.
Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller began working together in 1950 and, unlike a lot of great musical partnerships, they seem to have actually got on and they remained good friends for the rest of their lives.
I think they must have understood those good old fashioned things like love, friendship and loyalty because, if I had to choose a favourite Lieber Stoller song it would have to be Ben E King’s Stand By Me which is about all of those things. The song is up there with the very greatest with its trust in the power of a great melody, direct lyrics, the coolest of bass lines and an artist who can deliver the words.
So let’s hear it again for Jerry Lieber but, hey, who needs an excuse to listen to the magnificent Ben E King.