Heart and Soul: Hoagy Carmichael

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Great American Songwriter Series – John Johnson, pianist, singer, scholar

Thursday, April 16, Noon to 1:00

Paley Library Lecture Hall

Born in 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana, composer, pianist, singer Hoagland “Hoagy” Howard Carmichael combined his “home-town Hoosier” roots with his early passion for jazz to write some of the most well-known and beloved songs in America. As a young child in rural Indiana, Hoagy tagged along as his mother supplemented the family’s income by accompanying silent films on the piano at local theaters. While studying law at Indiana University, Carmichael deepened his love for jazz. Here he met and became friends with jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, and wrote “Riverboat Shuffle” for his friend. Hoagy Carmichael finished his law degree and began practicing law in Palm Beach, Florida. But his passion for music and particularly for jazz compelled him to leave the law practice and move to New York City to pursue a songwriting career because “it was more fun”.  In New York, Carmichael began by working at a brokerage during the day while making music at night with jazz musicians such as, in addition to Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and the Dorsey brothers. Carmichael met and worked with lyricists Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser, and Mitchell Parish, who wrote lyrics to Carmichael’s song “Star Dust” which became a huge hit in 1930 when recorded by Isham Jones.

To continue his musical career, Hoagy Carmichael moved to Hollywood where in the 1930s he became a staff songwriter at Paramount. For Paramount, Carmichael collaborated with lyricist Frank Loesser to write the songs “Two Sleepy People”, “Small Fry”, and  “Heart and Soul”. Carmichael’s songs evolved from the jazz idiom to a more popular style, although still retaining jazz elements. In addition to composing, Hoagy Carmichael’s fame grew as a singer and an actor. Carmichael’s film performances include Topper (1937), To Have And Have Not (1944), Johnny Angel (1945), Canyon Passage (1946), The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946),  Johnny Holiday(1949), Young Man With a Horn (1950), The Las Vegas Story (1952), Belles On Their Toes (1952), and Timberjack (1955).  In the film Canyon Passage, Carmichael performed his hit song “Ole Buttermilk Sky” (lyrics by Jack Brooks), which was nominated for an Academy Award. Carmichael said, though, that his favorite was Young Man With a Horn, which portrayed the life of his friend Bix Biederbecke. From 1959-1962 Carmichael also played the role of Jonesy in the television series Laramie.

During these immensely productive years, Hoagy Carmichael continued to write songs. He collaborated with Johnny Mercer in the hit “Skylark”, and “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” which won an Academy Award for best song in 1951, sung by Bing Crosby in Here Comes the Groom. More songs by Hoagy Carmichael include “Georgia on My Mind”, “Lazybones”, “The Lamplighter’s Serenade”, “Memphis In June”, “Baltimore Oriole”, “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” (last four, Paul Francis Webster), “The Nearness of You” (Ned Washington), “The Old Music Master”, “How Little We Know” (Mercer),  “Ivy”, “Blue Orchids” , “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, “Hong Kong Blues”, “Kinda Lonesome” (Leo Robin, Sam Coslow), and many more.


Songs of Hoagy Carmichael will be performed by entertainer extraordinaire John Johnson in the last of this year’s popular Noontime Concert Series, Thursday April 16, 12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M. in Paley Library Lecture Hall. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the epitome of Art Deco sophistication and to hear these great songs performed by the best in the business!


Find out more! (Items marked with * need Temple authentication.)

Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University – Hoagy Carmichael Collection. 

*By, Francis D. “Hoagy Carmichael, Gauge of a Nation’s Moods.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 58. Nov 21 1999.

*“Carmichael Hoagy.” Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Ed. Larkin, Colin. : Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference. 2009.

Carmichael, Hoagy. The Stardust Road & Sometimes I Wonder: the Autobiography of Hoagy Carmichael. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.

Forte, Allen. The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924-1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U. Press, 1995.

*Hasse, John Edward. “Carmichael, Hoagy.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.

Hemming, Roy. The Melody Lingers On: the Great Songwriters and their Movie Musicals. New York: Newmarket Press, 1986.

*Kennedy, Rick. Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy: Gennett Records and the Rise of America’s Musical Grassroots. Bloomington: Indiana U. Press, 2014. (online – Project Muse)

*Raykoff, Ivan. “Carmichael, Hoagy (1899-1981).” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 436-437. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Sudhalter, Richard M. Stardust Melody: the Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael. New York: Oxford U. Press, 2002.

Wilder, Alec. American Popular Song: the Great Innovators, 1900-1950. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1972.

Listen to Music by Hoagy Carmichael!

*Stardust: the Music of Hoagy Carmichael. Blue Note, 2002 (From Jazz Music Library)

*Various Artists, perf. Hoagy Carmichael: The First Of The Singer-Songwriters, CD A. Rec. 1 Aug. 2006. JSP Records, 2006. Music Online: Jazz Music Library

*Various Artists, perf. Music Of Hoagy Carmichael (Digitally Remastered). Rec. 3 Aug. 2009. Techniche Label OMP, 2009. Music Online: Jazz Music Library.



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