Happy Birthday Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael, a successful songwriter, composer, pianist, and actor, was born on this date, November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana. Carmichael started playing the piano at age six, having been influenced by his mother who helped support the family by playing piano at parties and as an accompaniment to silent movies.

As a songwriter, he is well known for his songs “Stardust” and “Georgia On My Mind”, the former having been recorded by several singers including Bing Crosby in 1931, and the latter having been recorded most notably by Ray Charles. In 1935, he moved to California and started composing songs for Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Some of the movies he composed songs for were I Met Him in Paris (“I Met Him in Paris”), Romance in the Dark (“The Nearness of You”), and Some Like it Hot with Bob Hope (“Heart and Soul”).

As an actor, he appeared in several popular movies including The Best Years of Our Lives with Fredric March and Myrna Loy, Topper in which he sang his song “Old Man Moon” to Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, and one of my favorites, Young Man with a Horn which starred Doris Day, Lauren Bacall and a young Kirk Douglas in the lead role. According to some, that movie was loosely based on the life of one of Hoagy’s friends and major influences, a jazz cornetist from the 1920’s named Bix Beiderbecke.

He also starred opposite Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the movie To Have and Have Not, singing his songs “The Rhumba Jumps” and “Hong Kong Blues,” a song later recorded by the ex-Beatle George Harrison who along with John Lennon was a big fan of Carmichael.

Hoagy Carmichael often collaborated with the lyricist Johnny Mercer, a pairing that led to him winning his first Academy Award for Best Original Song for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from the movie Here Comes the Groom (1951).

In 1971, he was inducted into the USA’s Songwriters Hall of Fame along with the jazz great Duke Ellington, an honor that was very much deserved.

Hoagy Carmichael, who according to the composer Alec Wilder was the “most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented” of the hundreds of writers composing pop songs in the first half of the 20th century, died on December 27, 1981 at the age of 82.

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2 Responses
  1. Jessica P. says:

    I love Hoagy! He is kinda dashing and sexy in a weird kind of way. Apparently Ian Flemming had him in mind when he wrote about James Bond. I think he even described Bond as sort of resembling Carmichael. Interesting since Hoagy and Sean Connery are so very very different.

  2. John says:

    The music and composers back then were just special. They had substance, melody and meaning in every song they wrote. The Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole porter, Johnny Merecer what genius, what class. Definitley a different time I wish I could have experienced first-hand.

    Oh how about that great film composer Max Steiner? Is it just me or do you see his name roll down the credits in almost every film you watch?

    Today’s music with few exceptions makes me cringe. I love anything from 1920-1980 in general minus heavy metal,hard hard rock and rap. These three are just not for me.

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