Songwriter Jerry Leiber dies aged 78

Along with writing partner Mike Stoller, lyricist was responsible for enduring hits including Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and Stand By Me

Blog: Leave your tributes for Jerry Leiber

Jerry Leiber, the lyricist behind songs including Stand By Me and Hound Dog, has died at the age of 78.

Leiber worked alongside his co-writer, Mike Stoller, to produce some of the most enduring hits of the rock'n'roll era, including tracks made famous by Elvis Presley. The songwriting duo also had their work performed by the Drifters, the Coasters and Ben E King, as well as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Stoller was one of the first to pay tribute to his songwriting partner: "He was my friend, my buddy, my writing partner for 61 years. He had a way with words. There was nobody better. I'm going to miss him."

The pair – who notched up 15 No 1 hits – were admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Terry Stewart, its president, said: "The music world lost today one of its greatest poet laureates.

"Jerry not only wrote the words that everyone was singing, he led the way in how we verbalised our feelings about the societal changes we were living with after the second world war.

"Appropriately, his vehicles of choice were the emerging populist musical genres of rhythm and blues and then rock'n'roll."

Leiber was born in Baltimore in 1933, and met Stoller as a high school student after moving to Los Angeles. Their working methods – Steiber hammering a piano while Leiber yelled out words – soon bore fruit and their first hit, Charles Brown's Hard Times, arrived in 1952.

This was also the year they wrote Hound Dog, which became a blues hit for Big Mama Thornton before Presley made it an even bigger hit with his rock'n'roll interpretation.

According to legend, that song came together when Leiber started beating a rhythm on the roof of Stoller's 1937 Plymouth with his right hand and tapping on the dashboard with his left. "I kinda liked the beat and it felt good," Leiber later told Reuters. "I started yelling: 'You ain't nothing but a hound dog!' Mike said: 'I like that.'"

In the 2009 memoir Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, Leiber jokingly described their songwriting partnership as "the longest-running argument in showbusiness".

Leiber died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles. He is survived by his sons, Jed, Oliver and Jake.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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