World renowned songwriter Jerry Leiber passed away on August 22nd, at the age of 78. The official cause of death was cardiopulmonary failure.
Leiber, with regular writing partner Mike Stoller, penned many of Elvis Presley’s early recordings including ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Hound Dog’, as well as many other well known tunes from the Rock ‘n’ Roll boom of the 1950s. Considered one of the best songwriters from a “pre-Lennon and McCartney” era, Leiber also wrote hits for The Drifters, The Coasters and The Clovers. Many of Leiber’s compositions are now considered standards within the rock ‘n’ roll genre.
‘Hound Dog’ became Leiber and Stoller’s first published work when it was recorded by Willie Mae Thornton in 1953. Although Elvis Presley’s 1956 version is often seen to be the definitive take of the song, it is said that Leiber himself did not especially like Presley’s recording.
Alongside ‘Hound Dog’, Leiber’s most enduring recording is ‘Stand By Me’, a number he co-wrote with Stoller and Ben E King, who recorded the generation-spanning classic, which has now been recorded in over four hundred versions, including covers by John Lennon, Elton John, Seal and US punk band Pennywise.
In 1985, Leiber was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, followed by an induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame two years later. He also gained various other accolades for his song writing, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 (shared with Mike Stoller, naturally), and a “Lifetime Acievement Award” from the National Academy of Songwriters in 1996.
To celebrate the legacy of Jerry Leiber, below are a handful of Leiber/Stoller songs, played in familiar – and some not so familiar ways.