Lyricist Jerry Leiber passes away

August 23, 2011 by Amy Gold

The Leiber and Stoller Story album cover
Leiber and Stoller in the 1960s.

Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 - August 22, 2011), one half of the famed songwriting team known as Leiber and Stoller, died at age 78 in Los Angeles on Monday, August 22, 2011, of cardio-pulmonary failure. He was born in Baltimore, MD on April 25, 1933. Leiber is survived by three sons, two grandchildren, and his longtime collaborator, Mike Stoller.

Jerry Leiber wrote the lyrics and Mike Stoller composed the music for their numerous songs. In 1950, they met in Los Angeles and began their collaboration while Leiber was a senior at Fairfax High and Stoller was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. In the late 1950s, they relocated to New York and became a major part of the famous Brill Building conglomerate of songwriters and other music business professionals who produced much of America's mainstream pop hits during the late 1950s and 1960s.

Leiber and Stoller were among the first to infuse R&B into pop, and many of their songs also have a signature humorous twist. Their music was performed and made famous by bands and artists as diverse as (to name a few) Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Big Mama Thornton, Charles Brown, the Robins, Ben E. King, the Drifters, the Coasters, Jay and the Americans, Ray Stevens, and Wilbert Harrison. The duo's first major successes came in the late 1950s when "Hound Dog" and "Kansas City," both written in 1952 and originally performed by other artists, became huge crossover hits for Elvis Presley and Wilbert Harrison, respectively. Since then, they went on to pen numerous other oldies classics that also included "Yakety Yak," "There Goes My Baby," "Is That All There Is," "I'm A Woman," "Stand By Me," and "Love Potion No. 9," plus a long string of other hit songs for Elvis Presley, the Drifters, the Coasters, and many other top acts.

Leiber and Stoller were also record producing partners starting around 1953 when they formed Spark Records. Over the years, they received numerous awards and honors and in 1985, they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1987, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Leiber, Stoller, and David Ritz co-wrote "Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography," published in 2009 by Simon and Schuster.