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Jerry Leiber dies

By | Published on Tuesday 23 August 2011

Jerry Leiber

Lyricist Jerry Leiber, who worked in partnership with pianist Mike Stoller to write songs including ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Stand By Me’, died from heart failure yesterday, aged 78.

Both born in 1933, Leiber and Stoller met in 1950, writing their first song together the same year, after discovering they had a shared love of rhythm and blues. Their first big success came three years later when their song ‘Hound Dog’, became a hit for Big Mama Thornton. However, the song’s immortality was assured in 1956 when it was re-recorded by Elvis Presley. They went on to pen several more songs specifically for Elvis, including ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

Also in 1954, the pair launched their own record label, Spark Records, which was then bought by Atlantic Records the following year, thanks to the success of one of their artists, The Robins. Leiber and Stoller then worked with a number of Atlantic artists, both as songwriters and producers, as well as those from other labels. In the Atlantic stable, they were particularly known for their work with the Drifters and The Coasters, the latter act featuring two members of The Robins.

Other songs written by Leiber and Stoller include The Coasters’ ‘Yakkety Yak’, Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’, The Clovers’ ‘Love Potion Number Nine’, and Édith Piaf’s ‘L’Homme à la Moto’ (a French translation of their song ‘Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots’, originally recorded by The Cheers).

Stoller’s son, Peter, said in a statement yesterday: “Jerry’s balance of natural talent and hard-won craftsmanship, of lightning wit and serious purpose, of compact form and complex content, made him not just the quintessential rock n roll lyricist, but the quintessential lyricist, period. In the history of popular songwriting, he has few equals; no superiors”.

Leiber is survived by three sons and two granddaughters.