Songwriting Legend Jerry Leiber Dies At 78
Leiber, left, with songwriting partner Mike Stoller.
Rock and Roll has lost another one of its original architects. Jerry Leiber, who co-wrote hits such as “Stand By Me,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Poison Ivy” and “Yakety Yak” with Mike Stoller, has died of unknown causes, according to reports. He was 78.
The Baltimore, Maryland-born Leiber forged his 50-year partnership with Mike Stoller in Los Angeles while he was still a senior in high school. Their first recorded hit was Charlie Brown’s “Hard Times” in 1952. The Drifters and The Coasters were among the earliest acts to chart with their songs, which the duo were composing on piano at Stoller’s house. But it was Elvis Presley’s 1956 rendition of “Hound Dog” that helped turn them into household names.
According to an interview in Rolling Stone, Leiber never forgave the King for changes he made to the lyrics (see Big Mama Thornton’s version for the original verses). “Of course, the fact that it sold more than seven million copies took the sting out of what seemed to be a capricious changes of lyrics,” said Leiber, who was the composing team’s primary lyricist.
The duo’s hit impressive streak faltered in the mid-60s, but they did return to the charts in 1972 with the Dylan-esque “Stuck In The Middle With You,” performed by Stealer’s Wheel.
As producers, Leiber and Stoller co-founded the label Red Bird Records, which employed a young Phil Spector and debuted The Shangri-La’s “Leader Of The Pack.”
In 2009, Leiber collaborated on the book Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, released by Simon & Schuster. For more information on Leiber, visit his Songwriters Hall of Fame page.