SongwriterJerry Leiber

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A lyricist, Leiber worked with composer Mike Stoller. When Leiber and Stoller met in Los Angeles in the 1950s as teenagers, they called their synergy “spontaneous combustion” — they started writing together the day they met. Together, they wrote songs for a wide assortment of early rockers, including the Clovers (“Love Potion No. 9”), the Drifters (“There Goes My Baby”), and a group that Leiber and Stoller helped create, the Coasters (“Yakety Yak (Don’t Talk Back)”). Oh, and they were prolific writers for a solo act: their “Hound Dog”, which they wrote for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, became a hit when Elvis sang it. (They wrote “Jailhouse Rock” and more for Elvis, even though Leiber, especially, was upset at the way Elvis messed up the lyrics of “Hound Dog” — “You ain’t never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.” — “I’d never write such a dumb line,” Leiber said.) Another song they wrote: the classic “Stand by Me”, for Ben E. King, formerly of the Drifters. Leiber and Stoller (their names were never reversed in any credits) were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters in 1996. Unlike many partners, Leiber and Stoller were friends until the end, when Leiber died August 22 from cardiopulmonary failure. He was 78.

From This is True for 21 August 2011