Celebrating The Johnny Mercer Centennial Lyricist and composer Johnny Mercer — born Nov. 18, 1909 — wrote or co-wrote more than 1,000 songs, including American Songbook standards like "Skylark," "That Old Black Magic" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." His Academy Awards tally includes a statue for what's possibly his most famous tune, "Moon River." Fresh Air marks the anniversary of his birth with an in-studio concert starring Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg.

Celebrating The Johnny Mercer Centennial

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Songwriter Johnny Mercer was born 100 years ago today. We're celebrating with a concert of his songs featuring singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer and songwriter Dave Frishberg.

Johnny Mercer wrote some melodies, but mostly he wrote lyrics. Many of his best-known lyrics were written for music by composer Harold Arlen, including "Blues in the Night," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "That Old Black Magic," "One for My Baby" and "Accentuate the Positive.

With Hoagy Carmichael, Mercer wrote "Skylark"; with Jerome Kern, "I'm Old Fashioned"; with Harry Warren, "You Must have been a Beautiful Baby" and "Jeepers Creepers"; and with Henry Mancini, "Moon River" and "The Days of Wine and Roses."

Mercer was also a professional singer and the co-founder of Capitol Records.

Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg have recorded several albums together. Their latest, "Why Fight the Feeling," features Frank Lesser songs. Kilgore is also part of the group Bed. Frishberg's own songs have been recorded by many singers, including Rosemary Clooney and Diana Krall. He wrote "Peel Me a Grape," "Sweet Kentucky Ham," "My Attorney, Bernie," and the Schoolhouse Rock classic, "I'm Just a Bill."

Dave Frishberg, Becky Kilgore, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's so great to have you here, and thanks for putting together this tribute concert for us. Let's get right into some music. You've arranged a medley of Johnny Mercer songs to get us started. How did you choose what to put in this medley? What side of Mercer does it represent?

Mr. DAVE FRISHBERG (Singer): We kind of thought of songs that would show off Mercer's fantastic lyric ability, how good he was with words, especially with humor.

GROSS: Okay. Why don't you do it for us?

Ms. BECKY KILGORE (Singer): Okay.

(Soundbite of songs)

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) You must have been a beautiful baby. You must have been a wonderful child. When you were only startin' to go to kindergarten, I bet you drove the other kids wild, and when it came to winning blue ribbons, I bet you showed the other kids how. I can see the judges' eyes as he handed you the prize. I bet you took the cutest bow. Oh, you must have been a beautiful baby 'cuz baby, look at you now.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Arthur Murray taught me dancing in a hurry. I had a week to spare. He showed me the ground work, the walking-around work and told me to take it from there. Arthur Murray then advised me not to worry. It would turn out all right. To my way of thinking, it came out stinkin'. I don't know my left from my right.

The people around me can all sing, a one and a two and a three, but any resemblance to waltzing is just coincidental with 'cuz Arthur taught me dancing in a hurry, and so I took a chance. To me it resembled the nine-day trembles, but he guarantees it's a dance.

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister In-Between.

To illustrate my last remark, Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark. What did they say just when everything looked so dark? Well, they said�

Hooray for Hollywood, that's groovy, bally hooey Hollywood, where any office boy or young mechanic can be a panic with just a good-looking pan. And any barmaid can be a star maid if she dancing with or without a fan.

Hooray for Hollywood, where you're terrific if you're even good, where anyone at all from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple is equally understand. Go out and try your luck, you may be Donald Duck. Hooray for Hollywood.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Hooray for Hollywood, that phony, super Coney, Hollywood. They come from Chilicothes and Paducahs with their bazookas to get their names up in lights, all armed with photos from local rotos with their hair in ribbons and legs in tights.

Hooray for Hollywood, you may be homely in your neighborhood. But if you think that you can be an actor, go see Max Factor. He'd make a monkey look good. Within a half an hour, you'll look like Tyrone Power. Hooray for Hollywood.

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer. Lead us lest too far we wander. Love's sweet voice is calling yonder. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer. Hey there don't get dimmer. Light the path below, above. Lead us on to love

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) Glow little glow-worm, fly of fire. Glow like an incandescent wire. Glow for the female of the species. Turn on the AC and the DC. This night could use a little brightnin'. Light up you little ol' bug of lightnin'. When you gotta glow, you gotta glow. Glow little glow-worm, glow.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Glow little glow-worm, glow and glimmer. Swim through the sea of night, little swimmer. Thou aeronautical boll weevil, illuminate yon woods primeval. See how the shadows deep and darken. You and your chick should get to sparkin'. I got a guy that I love so. Glow little glow-worm, glow.

Ms. KILGORE and Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) Glow little glow-worm, turn the key on. You are equipped with taillight neon. You got a cute vest-pocket, Master, which you can make both slow and faster. I don't know who you took a shine to, or who you're out to make a sign to, I got a gal/guy that I love so.

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) Glow little glow-worm.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Put on a show, worm.

Mr. FRISHBERG and Ms. KILGORE (Singing) Glow little glow-worm, glow. Glow little glow-worm, glow. Glow little glow-worm, glow.

GROSS: Oh, that's so wonderful. That's singer Rebecca Kilgore and singer, pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg, doing a tribute to Johnny Mercer. And here's what we heard in the order that we heard it: "You Must have Been a Beautiful Baby," "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry," "Accentuate the Positive," "Hooray for Hollywood," and "Glow Worm." Thank you both so much for doing that. That was really fun.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Oh, you're welcome.

Ms. KILGORE: You're welcome.

GROSS: You really succeeded in showing how really clever some of his lyrics were. That was really fun. but you know, one of the interesting things about Mercer is that he could also write songs that were, you know, sentimental and lyrical, and there's a song that I know you want to do called "P.S. I Love You." That's love letter that's almost from someone too reserved to talk about love, and the small things that she says in this letter are such an interesting contrast to the really clever lyrics that we just heard. Do you want to talk about why you like this song? It's such a beautiful song, "P.S. I Love You."

Ms. KILGORE: Well, like you say, it is understated, and yet the message comes through from this singer how much she cares about the person she's writing to. You know, we thought that this was written during World War II. It seems like, you know, she's writing to her lover who's, you know, fighting abroad, but it was actually written in 1934, and so I guess people can miss people at any time.

GROSS: But I think it became really popular during the war.

Ms. KILGORE: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

GROSS: Who wrote the music for this?

Ms. KILGORE: Gordon Jenkins.

Mr. FRISHBERG: I didn't know that. Gordon Jenkins wrote that. Yeah, I'll be darned.

Ms. KILGORE: And the first hit was with Rudy Vallee singing it.

GROSS: It goes back. Anything else you want to say about the song before you do it for us?

Mr. FRISHBERG: Well, Mercer, write to the Browns just as soon as you're able. You know, I love that. You know, who are the Browns, but everyone knows who they are, you know? I love that.

GROSS: Well, let's hear the song, and then maybe can talk some more about the lyric. So this is singer Becky Kilgore. Dave Frishberg's at the piano, and the song is "P.S. I love You," lyric by Johnny Mercer and music by Gordon Jenkins.

(Soundbite of song, "P.S. I Love You")

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) What is there to write? What is there to say? Same things happen every day. Not a thing to write, not a thing to say. So I take my pen in hand and start the same old way.

Dear, I thought I'd drop a line. The weather's cool, the folks are fine. I'm in bed each night at nine. P.S., I love you.

Yesterday we had some rain, but all in all, I can't complain. Was it dusty on the train? P.S., I love you.

Write to the Browns just as soon as you're able. They came around to call. I burned a hole in the dining room table, and let me see, I guess that's all.

Nothing more for me to say, and so I'll close, but by the way, everybody's thinking of you. P.S., I love you.

GROSS: Oh, that was really beautiful, and I never heard the verse before. Did you find it from sheet music?

Ms. KILGORE: Oh yes.

GROSS: Or had you heard other people sing it?

Ms. KILGORE: I had never heard anyone sing it.

GROSS: Lovely. I'm glad you added the verse. That was singer Becky Kilgore with composer, singer and pianist Dave Frishberg at the piano, and they're doing a centenary tribute to the great lyricist Johnny Mercer. And they'll be performing more songs. But Becky, Dave, I think we should take a short break here, and then we'll be back. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're paying tribute to Johnny Mercer in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. This is his centennial year, and here to perform some songs by Mercer are singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer and songwriter Dave Frishberg.

Dave, you actually met Johnny Mercer. How did you meet him?

Mr. FRISHBERG: Well, I met him through my friend, Blossom Dearie. I was living in New York at the time, and Blossom called me one night. She says, I'm playing at the Village Gate, the Top of the Gate, and Johnny Mercer's coming to see me, and I want him to meet you, and I want you to meet him. Come over. So I did. I went over to the Top of the Gate, and I sat at their table.

GROSS: What happened? Did you get to talk with him?

Mr. FRISHBERG: Oh, a little bit, but we listened pretty carefully while Blossom was on, but the part - I'll always remember this part. When Blossom got off, she joined us at the table, and the other band got on, and the other band was a group of Indian musicians who were playing tablas, and they were playing ragas, they were playing sitars, stuff like that, and they were just wailing away. But we were sitting at a table pretty close by, and we couldn't talk easily, and Mercer was getting very upset, and finally he just, he turned around and he yelled at the band. He said, hey, don't you guys know about swing? One, two, three, four?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Not getting the music at all.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Right, and I thought to myself, wow, that's perfect. That's like a James Thurber cartoon right there, you know.

GROSS: You also have a story about Mercer, where you met him and you took him to hear another singer. Would you tell that one?

Mr. FRISHBERG: Oh, well, I was working at Eddie Condon's at the time, when it was the Sutton Hotel on 56th and First Avenue. Mercer - this was after Mercer had met me at the Village Gate. He came in. I told him I was playing there, and he was interested too. That's his game. He went to Condon's.

Afterwards, when the gig was over, he said take me to hear some good singers. I said okay. I was thrilled to have him along, even though he was half in the bag already, you know. We got in a cab, and we went over to the Apartment, I think it was. I think it was that, on the East Side. Charles DeForest(ph) was playing. He was playing piano and singing. I wanted him to - I knew he'd be thrilled to meet or see Mercer in the crowd, you know.

So we walked in there and somebody else was playing piano, a substitute pianist, and it was a woman, and Mercer wasn't impressed, and he says real loud, we were sitting right next to her: Is this who you brought me in to hear?

And so Charles DeForest saw what was happening, and he came to the rescue, and he came to the piano, and he said the great Johnny Mercer is with us in the audience tonight, and I'm going to sing something now that he probably just has forgotten that he's written. It's something that's very seldom heard.

And he began to sing something. Mercer got up. He said: That's not my song. That's Leo Robin's lyric, for God's sake. And he walked out, left me with the bill.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Very nice.

Mr. FRISHBERG: So, and later on, when he came into Condon's later on that week, I referred to the experience that he had - he had barely remembered it. He had a faint recollection of the whole thing. He was great before he started drinking. After that, he was tough to - you couldn't figure him out, really.

GROSS: Well, actually, you know, stories are pretty legendary of how unpleasant he was when he was drunk.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Yeah, I'm afraid I was witness to that.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah, well, but at least you got to meet him.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Oh, but he was a sweetheart of a guy, really. Yeah, he was wonderful.

GROSS: Yeah. You know, one of the things Mercer did was write a lot of songs for movies, and let's hear a song that was written by Mercer for a film, written with music by Jerome Kern. The song is "I'm Old Fashioned," and it's from the 1942 film "You Were Never Lovelier" with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.

Ms. KILGORE: Right.

GROSS: Who I think was dubbed. I don't think she did her own singing.

Ms. KILGORE: Nan Wynn(ph).

Mr. FRISHBERG: Yeah, I've never heard of her, but she's the one who dubbed her, Nan Wynn. So this is singer Becky Kilgore with songwriter, pianist and singer Dave Frishberg at the piano.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Old Fashioned")

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) I am not such a clever one about the latest fads, and I'll admit I was never one adored by local lads, not that I ever try to be a saint. I'm the type that they classify as quaint.

I'm old fashioned. I love the moonlight. I love the old fashioned things, the sound of rain upon a window pane, the starry song that April sings.

This year's fancies are passing fancies, but sighing sighs holding hands, these my heart understands.

I'm old fashioned, but I don't mind it. That's how I want to be as long as you agree to stay old fashioned with me.

GROSS: That was really lovely. I'm so glad you chose to do that for us in your concert, and performing the concert today, a centenary tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer, is singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, songwriter and singer Dave Frishberg. And they'll be back in the second half of the show to continue their tribute to Johnny Mercer. They both have a lot of recordings if you want to hear more by them, and they've recorded under their own names, they've recorded together. Their latest album together is an album of Frank Lesser songs called "Why Fight the Feeling. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR, and here's Johnny Mercer, recorded in 1946, singing his song "Anyplace I Hang my Hat is Home."

(Soundbite of song, "Anyplace I Hang My Hat is Home")

Mr. JOHNNY MERCER (Lyricist): (Singing) Free and easy, that's my style. Howdy-do me, watch me smile. Fare-thee-well me after a while 'cause I gotta roam, and any place I hang my hat is home.

Sweetenin' water, cherry wine. Thank you kindly, suits me fine. Kansas City, Caroline, that's my honeycomb 'cause any place I hang my hat is home.

Birds roostin' in a tree. Pick up and go, and the goin' proves that's how it oughta be. I pick up too when the spirit moves me.

Cross the river, 'round the bend. Howdy stranger, so long friend. There's a voice in the lonesome wind that keeps whispering: roam. I'm going where a welcome mat is�

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of lyricist Johnny Mercer. We're celebrating with a concert of his songs featuring singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, songwriting and singer Dave Frishberg.

You guys opened the first half hour of our show with a medley of very witty Johnny Mercer songs. You've put together a second medley for us that shows a different side of him. What's the theme of this one?

Mr. FRISHBERG: This is Mercer the romantic, picturesque painter of words. He could just think up these wonderful ideas for words that just kill me. There's one line that we're going to be singing in this medley that just it's wonderful. It's in �Early Autumn.� It's my favorite Mercer line for week, I guess. It's: There's a dance pavilion in the rain all shuttered down.

My god, what a wonderful picture to think of and it just says everything about the song, you know?

GROSS: Well, I really want to hear this medley.

(Soundbite of medley, �When the World Was Young,� �I Thought About You,� �Blues in the Night,� �Early Autumn,� �Laura,� �Moon River�)

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) They call me coquette and mademoiselle and I must admit, I like it quite well. It's something to be the belle of the ball, the grand femme fatale, the darling of all. There's nothing as gay as life in Paris. There's no other person I'd rather be. I love what I do and I love what I see. But where is the schoolgirl that used to be me?

Ah, the apple trees, blossoms in the breeze that we walked among. On our backs we lie gazing at the sky, till the stars were strung, only last July, when the world was young.

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) I took a trip on a train and I thought about you. I passed a shadowy lane. I thought about you. Two or three cars parked under the stars, a winding stream, moon shining down on some little town and with each beam, the same old dream. At every stop that we made, oh, I thought about you. But when I pulled down the shade then I really felt blue. I peeked through the crack and looked at the track, the one going back to you and what did I do? I thought about you.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) The evening breeze will start the trees to crying and the moon will hide its light when you get the blues in the night.

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) Take my word, the mocking bird will sing a sadder kind of song. He knows things are wrong and he's right.

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) When an early autumn walks the land and chills the breeze and touches with her hand the summer trees, perhaps you'll understand what memories I own. There's a dance pavilion in the rain all shuttered down a winding country lane all russet brown. The frosty window pane shows me a town grown lonely.

Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) And you see Laura on a train that is passing by. Those eyes how familiar they seem. She gave your very first kiss to you. That was Laura but she's only a dream.

Ms. KILGORE and Mr. FRISHBERG: (Singing) Moon River, wider than a mile, I'm crossing you in style some day. Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker. Wherever you're going, I'm going your way. Two drifters, off to see the world, there's such a lot of world to see. We're after the same rainbow's end, waiting, round the bend, my huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me.

GROSS: Those medley of songs by lyricist Johnny Mercer. We're celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. Performing for us is singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer and songwriter Dave Frishberg.

And let me tell you what we heard in the order that we heard it: �When the World Was Young,� with music by Philippe G�rard; �I Thought About You,� music by Jimmy Van Heusen; �Blues in the Night,� Harold Arlen wrote the music; �Early Autumn,� with music by Woody Herman and Ralph Burns; �Laura,� music by David Raksin; and �Moon River,� music by Henry Mancini.

That was really lovely. It really put me in a mood.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRISHBERG: Good. It's supposed to do that.

GROSS: You know, when I interviewed Philip Furia's about his biography of Johnny Mercer, Philip pointed out that Mercer was kind of unique in that he was a Southerner in a period of songwriters where a lot of the great famous songwriters were immigrants or the sons of immigrants and they were Northerners. People, you know, like the Gershwin's, Irving Berlin and, you know, Cole Porter, okay, not a Northern immigrant but, you know, he's from the Midwest and not the South. Do you feel like you can hear the difference in Mercer's songs because he's a lyricist from the South?

Mr. FRISHBERG: I'll say. He really does sound like he's a Southern lyricist. I would say that he's the master of the Southern school of lyric writing. You got it.

Ms. KILGORE: Even the subjects he chooses to write about, you know, lazy bones and they're very earthy.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Yeah, and Southern.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KILGORE: And country. Yeah.


GROSS: Yeah. Another difference, you know, compared to say like Berlin and Arlen, the Gershwins is he was from a very prosperous family. His father was a very wealthy lawyer. Mercer went to prep school. But unfortunately, his father lost his money...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...in the late 1920s and was like a million dollars in debt, which Mercer ended up paying a good deal off himself after he sold Capitol Records, the record company that he founded.


GROSS: It's kind of...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...an interesting contrast. Do you feel like you hear that in his lyrics - that he's from a much more like privileged background than a lot of the other songwriters of his generation were?

Mr. FRISHBERG: I don't feel that he - no, I don't hear that in there. But I don't know what it is about him that's so Southern. You know, his singing and the way he delivers a song is so - is unique. There's nothing that ever occurred like Johnny Mercer's vocal style. He's one of my favorite singers.

GROSS: Really? How come?

Mr. FRISHBERG: Oh, he's such an excellent musician. He's not just a lyric writer. He's just a musician all to his bones and he sings beautifully. He sings beautifully in tune and he sings with great humor and with great sentiment, and with a great understanding of what he's doing musically. That always knocked me out. His very first job of professional music I think was as a singer. Wasn't it, with Paul Whiteman?

GROSS: I think he might've been like the songwriter for the band, which it would be an amazing job, like as a job you wouldn't find now - a big band songwriter. What a gig.

Mr. FRISHBERG: That's right. Special material. That's right.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. FRISHBERG: But he could - he's tops as a singer as far as I'm concerned. I love his singing.

GROSS: I like his singing too. But I think we need to take a short break here, and then we'll be back with more of our centenary concert tribute to Johnny Mercer with singer Becky Kilgore and pianist, songwriter and singer Dave Frishberg.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're featuring a concert today of songs with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Mercer's birth. Our guest performers, today, are singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer and songwriter Dave Frishberg.

Well the next song you're going to do, �Something's Got To Give� is one of the really well-known songs that Johnny Mercer wrote. It's from which movie, Becky?

Ms. KILGORE: �Daddy Long Legs.�

GROSS: And do you know it from the movie or do you know it from a lot of other singers doing it?

Ms. KILGORE: Oh, a lot of other singers. Yes.

GROSS: Yeah. So many singers have done it.

Ms. KILGORE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: But I really want to hear your version.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Hey, we should mention that this is also Mercer's music, too, on this song, �Something's Got To Give.�

GROSS: That's right.

Ms. KILGORE: That's right.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Where, again, Johnny Mercer's words and music.

(Soundbite of song, �Something's Got To Give�)

Ms. KILGORE: When an irresistible force such as you, meets an old immovable object like me. You can bet as sure as you live, something's got to give, something's got to give, something's got to give. And when an irrepressible smile such as yours, warms an old implacable heart such as mine, don't say no, because I insist, somewhere, somehow, someone's going to be kissed. So, en garde, who knows what fates have in store from their vast mysterious sky? I'll try hard ignoring those lips I adore, but how long can anyone try? Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight it with all of our might. Chances are it's on the heavenly stars-spangled all night. We'll find out as sure as we live. Something's got to give, something's got to give, something's got to give. Something's got to give, something's got to give, something's got to give.

GROSS: Thank you for doing that. That's Rebecca Kilgore singing with Dave Frishberg at the piano and they're doing a concert tribute to Johnny Mercer. This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. There's a song I'd like to request that you do. It's a beautiful song of his, called �I Remember You.� I know the song really well but I've never heard of the composer before, Victor Schertzinger. Do you know other songs that he has written?

Mr. FRISHBERG: I think that I heard Victor Schertzinger worked in the movie industry as a producer and kind of wrote songs on - he was composer on the side. He was very good at it.

Ms. KILGORE: Oh, apparently it's a lovely melody. It's from the movie �The Fleet's In.� So, anything you want to say about it before you perform it?

Ms. FRISHBERG: Well, I would like to say that it's in the key of C. Is that correct?

GROSS: That's correct.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KILGORE: But I also read somewhere, and this is just between us, is that he wrote this with Judy Garland in mind.


(Soundbite of song, �I Remember You�)

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Was it in Tahiti? Were we on the Nile? Long long ago, say an hour ago I recall that I saw your smile. I remember you. You're the one who made my dreams come true. A few kisses ago. I remember you. You're the one who said "I love you, too." I do, didn't you know? I remember, too. A distant bell And stars that fell Like rain out of the blue. When my life is through And the angels ask me to recall The thrill of them all. Then I shall tell them I remember you. When my life is through. And the angels ask me to recall the thrill of them all. Then I shall tell them I remember, you

GROSS: Thank you so much for doing that. That was �I Remember You,� Johnny Mercer's lyric, sung by Rebecca Kilgore with Dave Frishberg at the piano and they're doing a tribute to Johnny Mercer on this - the 100th year of his birth. And Becky, Dave, we're going to have to take a short break here and then we'll be back for the conclusion of your concert.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: The great lyricist, Johnny Mercer, was born 100 years ago this year. And we're doing a tribute to him - performing are singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer, and songwriter Dave Frishberg. So, you've been doing a mix of familiar and lesser known songs that Johnny Mercer wrote. And the next one you have for us is definitely one of the lesser known songs. I don't know at it all. So, I'm really anxious to hear it. Dave, introduce the song for us.

Mr. FRISHBERG: �I'm Shadowing You,� is the name of this song. And I think I'm correct when I say that this is - I know, its Mercer's lyric and I think that he gave to Blossom Dearie and she put the music to it. It's Blossom's music and Mercer's lyric. I'm not sure which happened first, the lyric or the music. Sometimes Blossom used to write melodies and give them to the lyric writer, but in this case, I think, it was vice versa.

GROSS: Well, I'm anxious to hear it? Would you play it for us?

(Soundbite of song, �I'm Shadowing You�)

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Everywhere you go, I think, you ought to know I'm shadowing you. Turn around and find I'm half a step behind, shadowing you. You lug, you, I wouldn't bug you except whenever I can. You see, love, you are to me, love, the indispensable man. If you do decide you want me for a bride, the deed will be done. Both of us will be so independent we will live on the run. Picketing for every cause, fighting all unjust lies. Happy as can be just you, the Secret Service and me. Like I said before I'm camping at your door, shadowing you. There will be no escape. I'm getting out of tape and video(ph) too. In Venice, I'll be a menace in your Italian motel.

In Paris, I will embarrass you on the Rue La Chaquelle(ph). And if you do decide you want me for a bride, the deed will be done. Both of us will be so independent we will live on the run. Picketing for every cause, fighting all unjust lies. Happy as can be just you the Secret Service and me. I'm shadowing you. I'm shadowing you, shadowing you, shadowing you, shadowing you.

GROSS: A delightful song and delightful performance and, I think, we have time for one more song in our centenary tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer with singer Rebecca Kilgore and pianist, singer, and songwriter Dave Frishberg. What song would you like close with?

Ms. KILGORE: Well, a song called, �Dream,� which is the most evocative and irresistible of all.

GROSS: So, who wrote the music for �Dream?�

Mr. FRISHBERG: Johnny Mercer did himself.

GROSS: But he did that one too.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Yeah, this is one of his music and words works.

GROSS: You know, it's amazing, you always think of him just a lyricist but he really did write several great melodies too.

Mr. FRISHBERG: I'll see.

GROSS: Mm-hmm, yeah. So - okay - so let's hear �Dream.�

(Soundbite of song, �Dream�)

Ms. KILGORE: (Singing) Dream, when you're feeling blue. Dream, that's the thing to do. Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air. You'll find your share of memories there. So dream when the day is through. Dream, and they might come true. Things never are as bad as they seem. So dream, dream, dream.

GROSS: What a sweet way to end, and how fitting to end with a song with music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. And I regret to say that it's more than a thousand Johnny Mercer songs we didn't have time for�

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: �in our concert today. But I'm so grateful for the songs that you did do. Becky Kilgore is singing for us today. Dave Frishberg is singing as well and also featured on piano - and Dave is also a great songwriter. We didn't get to hear any of his songs today, but we have played them often on FRESH AIR.

I appreciate both of you coming to do the concert today. Thank you so very much.

Ms. KILGORE: Thank you.

Mr. FRISHBERG: Thank you.

Ms. KILGORE: It's a pleasure.

Mr. FRISHBERG: It was really nice, felt good to do this.

GROSS: Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg had several albums together. Their latest �Why Fight the Feeling,� features songs by Frank Loesser. Kilgore is also a member of the quartet �Bed,� which has several albums. And Frishberg has recorded many albums of his own songs.

Our centennial tribute to Johnny Mercer was recorded by Jim Zach with Bill Moss at the Nola Recording Studios in Manhattan.


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