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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.



Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Celebrating The Johnny Mercer Centennial


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

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

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

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

(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

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

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 Gérard; “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

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: 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: 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

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

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

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

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.


Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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