We sat watching the documentary on Turner Classic Movies: "The Dream's On Me." The "dreamer" was Johnny Mercer, the songwriter whose name has cropped up time and time again in my life whenever I found a song I really loved.
We sat there, stunned to realize how much a part of our lives this Southern gentleman had been. "Did he write THAT!" "My gosh! Was THAT his too?" "Wow! I learned 'Jeepers creepers' in the fourth grade!"
"Lazybones" and "Day In and Day Out," "I'm An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande" and "That Old Black Magic"--all by the same writer? "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Autumn Leaves"?
The documentary features great clips by the best singers of the 20th century, vocalizing or playing with Mercer or while he listens: Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Andy Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland (found out something about her we didn't know!), Tony Bennett, Nat "King" Cole--on and on.
The documentary follows Mercer's career into the Seventies, when music trends changed and his kind of ballad passed from popularity, and when I no longer learned the words of dozens of songs. More than any other lyricist in the world, Johnny Mercer was the man who gave my generation its love songs. What a debt we owe him! His tombstone uses yet another of his unforgettable phrases: "And the Angels Sing." Indeed they did.