Feb 27 2012
Do you remember finding the cure to your loneliness with a little “Love Potion Number 9”? Or swooning over Elvis Presley as he swung his hips to “Jailhouse Rock”?
In preparation for our Tuesday, March 6 In Conversation kick-off event, we are providing an insider’s look into the world of blues and jazz and the creative genius behind these chart-topping hits: an evening in conversation with composer Mike Stoller and musician, Corky Hale Stoller.
Mike Stoller’s compositions fed the boogie-woogie scene and were made famous by artists such as The Coasters, Elvis Presley and Billie Holiday. The Museum at Eldridge Street is recognizing him for his contributions, along with the late Jerry Leiber, to the worlds of both Jewish and black music. For Stoller, a young boy growing up in New York City, music was a powerful source of inspiration. In his autobiography Stoller writes that his attraction to music,
“…was purely visceral. And as much as I loved symphonies and tone poems, it was black music that excited my deepest passion. I heard the lyricism in Richard Strauss, I felt the elegance of Bach, but boogie-woogie really reached my eight-year-old soul.” (Leiber & Stoller. 2010. Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 5)
When Stoller and Leiber started making music, they were not feeding music to mainstream artists, but to the scene on the fringes that catered to predominantly black audiences, the blues. Stoller and Leiber forged their way into the music scene of the 1950’s, recording songs with a plethora of record labels over the course of the next thirty years including Atlantic and A&M. At the beginning of their career, larger labels were ignoring black artists, but with encouragement from mentor and producer Lester Sill, the duo continued to make the music they loved, following the trend of many other Jewish label owners. Sill explained,
“They [bigger labels] don’t think it’s worthwhile, artistically or commercially [to invest in black music]. Well I don’t have to tell you how wrong they are… Look at the way the big iron and steel companies threw the scraps to the Jews. That’s how Jews started in the scrap metal business. Same thing in music. The majors see great artists like Jimmy Witherspoon as scrap. They don’t want to deal with what they consider junk… Through experience, they learned what some see as junk might actually be precious jewels.”
Stoller and Leiber created songs that were, in fact, scooped up by the public like precious jewels, and their accomplishments are not only a source of pride for the Jewish musical community, but also a testament to the fluidity of community and importance of following one’s passion. In the slightly re-worked words of a Leiber and Stoller classic:
“You just put on your coat and hat
And walk yourself to the Laundromat
And when you finish doin’ that
Come to the Museum at Eldridge Street to
In Conversation: Mike Stoller and Corky Hale Stoller
Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm
Grammy Award-winning composer Mike Stoller, who with the late Jerry Leiber wrote Jailhouse Rock, Stand by Me and other hits, is joined by his wife, acclaimed jazz pianist, harpist and singer Corky Hale. In this public conversation they talk about their extensive careers working with a Who’s Who of the popular and jazz music worlds ranging from Elvis Presley, The Coasters, Peggy Lee and The Drifters to Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, and Barbra Streisand.