Jerry Leiber, RIP

Billy and Dad just heard that Jerry Leiber died, the songwriter who with Mike Stoller crafted some of the finest popular songs of the past fifty years, like “Hound Dog” and “Stand by Me.” Here’s the obit from Rolling Stone.

It turns out Leiber never liked the changes Elvis made to “Hound Dog.” His rationale gives you a sense of his spirit.

To this day I have no idea what that rabbit business is about. The song is not about a dog; it’s about a man, a freeloading gigolo. Elvis’ version makes no sense to me, and, even more irritatingly, it is not the song that Mike and I wrote. Of course, the fact that it sold more than seven million copies took the sting out of what seemed to be a capricious change of lyrics.

As pop songs go, the melodies and lyrics of Leiber-Stoller songs are, at their best, nearly flawless: the kind of songs that make you genuinely nostalgic for the good old days of songwriting, prior to the all the-half-baked singer-songwriting that took their place.

Ben E. King was once interviewed about why “Stand by Me” was so popular. “The bass,” he said with a smile.

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