Jerry Leiber was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 25, 1933, and Mike Stoller was born in Queens, New York, on March 13, 1933. They first met in Los Angeles in 1950, moved to New York in 1957 and returned to L.A. in 1989, where they both still reside. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
David Ritz is a songwriter who has collaborated with stars like Janet Jackson and Marvin Gaye, as well as a renowned ghostwriter who has authored more than fifty books for some of the biggest stars in music: Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Perry, Smokey Robinson, Don Rickles, and Willie Nelson, to name a few. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Essence, People, US, Art Connoisseur, and TV . He lives in Los Angeles with Roberta, his wife of 47 years.
The golden days of rock 'n' roll flit by in this sprightly memoir by the celebrated songwriting duo. A couple of Jewish kids with a passion for black music, Leiber and Stoller started out as teenagers writing blues ballads, penned such early, genre-defining rock classics as "Hound Dog" and "Stand by Me," then conceived a midlife obsession with aging chanteuse Peggy Lee, for whom they wrote and produced an album of ruminative torch songs. Along the way, they went through iconic music-biz rites of passage: hanging with Elvis; working at the Brill Building; getting into financial disputes with Phil Spector, Atlantic Records and the Mafia. As arranged by collaborator Ritz, the authors harmonize well in their alternating reminiscences; Stoller is the more reflective one, while the best anecdotes belong to the brash Leiber, who was challenged to a drag race by James Dean, choked by Norman Mailer and forced to trade his car for a pair of shoes. There's not a lot of deep insight into the creative process-the authors seem to have written most of their songs on 15 minutes' notice-just vignettes from pop music's giddy youth, short and sweet and catchy. Photos. (June) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
In a conversational style, first Leiber and then Stoller (with Ritz, who has cowritten books with Etta James, Don Rickles, Ray Charles, and others) narrate their long collaborative history. They met in Los Angeles as teenagers and became a songwriting team for Charles Brown; Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, who first recorded "Hound Dog"; Elvis Presley (who altered the lyrics to "Hound Dog" to Leiber and Stoller's irritation); the Coasters; the Drifters; and Peggy Lee; among others. The musicians wrote over 75 top 100 songs, including "Is That All There Is?," "Jailhouse Rock," "Kansas City," and "Spanish Harlem." The book includes lyrics and appendixes on the songs and productions. Verdict: A fun read that will engross fans of pop-music songwriters and 20th-century pop, jazz, or rock music in general. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/09.]-Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.