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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Good essay by Terry Teachout on Johnny Mercer. I don't know if it is completely accurate to say that, "Mercer was one of the few major American songwriters who were not big-city Easterners"-- it seems to me that more than a few of the people who qualify as "major American songwriters" were not big city Easterners. Mercer's collaborator, Hogey Carmichael was from Indiana; Howard Arlen was from Buffalo. Dorothy Fields was from small town New Jersey. Cole Porter, famously, was from Peru, Indiana. It is not even accurate to say that Mercer evokes "Americana" in some way that is different than others-- more than "Carousel"? All songwriters from this period were evoking Americana-- as Carmichael once said, "Nobody ever lost money writing about the South." I'll go along with the proposition that Mercer's lyrics have a poetic quality that is distinctive, and I think that it is interesting that Teachout attributes this to Mercer's decision to work in Hollywood rather than on Broadway-- there is probably something to that.

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