18 NOVEMBER 1998











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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Aim for the moon. The worst that can happen is you’ll miss it and end up tumbling through the stars.



Today’s “Some of the Best” is a reprint of a Flight Plan I did in 1998 saluting the birthday of my friend and one of the best friends music ever had, Johnny Mercer. In early March I’ll be part of an all-star salute to Mercer and those of you who missed out on getting tickets for last week’s Jerry Herman extravaganza know how quickly the seats for these shows sell out so I’ll keep you advised.

I hope all of you saw the once in a lifetime spectacular shower of stars last night. Meanwhile, Happy Sunday and read on.


Those of you familiar with Stanyan (Thank You Very Much) know by now that I use any and every chance to expound on Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford [Jo’s Birthday was last week]. Some people are addicted to booze and horses, I get downright cranky without my daily fix of Jo and Johnny.

I idolized Johnny Mercer long before I ever met him. To my mind Johnny is the greatest songwriter America ever produced and this country has given the world some giants, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields, Larry Hart, The Gershwins. We used to grow 'em here like wildflowers. We've got a few great ones still with us and some are friends of mine so I won't mention names of the living for fear of slighting even one I know and admire. And let's not even get into the immigrants like Irving Berlin who came to this country and wrote more real American songs than most of the native writers.

Mercer over Kern you say and over Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin? I admit it's a close call. Who could deny the melodic genius of Kern, the wit of Porter and Ira Gershwin the master of words. But Mercer was unique, he could write anything. Most of the time he wrote lyrics to other peoples songs.

Mercer wrote the words to Laura, Moon River, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, Something’s Gotta Give, On The Atchiston, Topeka & The Santa Fe, Come Rain or Come Shine, I’m Old Fashioned, Accentuate The Positive, One For My Baby & One More For The Road, That Old Black Magic, P.S. I Love You, Jeepers Creepers, The Strip Polka, Hooray For Hollywood, The GI Jive, I’m an Old Cowhand, Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home, Tangerine, I Want To Be Around, The Days of Wine & Roses, Lazy Bones, Satin Doll, Too Marvelous For Words, Skylark, When A Woman Loves A Man, The Summer Wind, Autumn Leaves, Fools Rush In, Day In – Day Out, I Remember You, Bob White, Once Upon A Summertime, And The Angels Sings, This Time The Dream’s On Me, Goody Goody, When The World Was Young . . .. Well, you get the picture.

The hundreds of songs he wrote include collaborations with Henry Mancini, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, Andre Previn, Ziggy Elman, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Ralph Burns, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Van Heusen, Victor Schertzinger, Rube Bloom, Bernie Hanighen, Victor Young, Gordon Jenkins, Robert Emmit Dolan and on and on.

Every day his songs become more popular than they were the day before. A cliché, perhaps, but true. In addition to his prolific output as a wordsmith, during the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s, Mercer had a major career as a singer. He influenced among others, Chet Baker, Bobby Troup, Fred Astaire and a whole group of so called "non-singers" who were every bit as versatile and compelling as the crooners with real pipes Crosby, Sinatra & Nat King Cole.

Johnny would have been 89 today. Stanyan has released 3 Mercer albums; Great American Songwriters, Some of the Best & More of the Best with another 4 mastered but as yet unreleased. Lots of noise in this world. Mucho misunderstanding, and let's not forget that ugliest of all contemporary phrases, in your face, that helps to contribute to it all. Don’t get Mad, get Johnny Mercer.

RM 11/16/98 First published in Flight Plan 11/18/98

notable birthdays Hank Ballard o Imogene Coca o Dorothy Collins o Louis Dagger o Dorothy Dix o Linda Evans o George Gallup o Sir William Gilbert o Kirk Lee Hammet o David Hemming o Jim Menace o Johnny Mercer o Mickey Mouse (debuts) o Eugene Ormandy o Graham Parker o Jameson Parker o Elizabeth Perkins o Alan Shepard, Jr. o Roy Sievers o Sinbad o Susan Sullivan o Brenda Vaccaro o Jacky Ward o Kim Wilde
Rod's random thoughts Failure is as certain as success, but neither final.

Conscience is the hardest weight to lift.

The soul lives beyond the age of its packaging.


Beach Diary, 2

With the stars
all stringing out and strung
and the moon half hung
                and hanging,
hunger starts somewhere
within my belly.
It will not be gone
with bowls of guacamole,
        as it didn’t go
with friends and family
commiserating on my loss.

I elected
to come down
to this house
and to this beach
knowing that I couldn’t
leave all memory,
        fact or fiction
in an overcoat at home.

Soon the crickets
will stop adding,
counting, summing up.

The heavy air will set all things
                 to sleeping
and the steady rhythm
of this well-loved,
        well-known ocean
will conspire to keep us there.

That battle won,
another day makes ready
                 to arrive,
another night to follow.

More defeats
or maybe victories
        wait ahead.
I will have to meet
and battle each alone,
but the victory party
isn’t worth the having
if the celebration’s done
                 in solitary.

Beach Diary, 3

Was there rehearsal,
a time of trying out
how many starts
and stops occurred
before the balls
fell into place
and boisterous
turned to gentle surf ?

Awhile back.
But how far back
       and when ?
These questions done
and finally answered
I hope they’ll not
be asked again.

Words once written
         on a page
and published
cannot be taken back -
         or altered
though each of us
invents a way
to prove we’re moving
ahead if not beyond.

catch us running
then bring us
to a stop,
demanding to know
what a certain sentence
or a long line meant.
They speak aloud
a favorite poem
heard or read and then
remembered to the line break.
And that feels good
          or doesn’t
depending on the friend
          you’re with
and trying to impress.

the dirty foam
that caps the whitecaps
collecting grime
and all the smaller
things that float,
critics have their place
but only if they
         set about
redefining and reviewing
not your life
         or life-style
but what they call
         your work,
critics should be
         sneezed at
especially if you have
         a cold.

The best of them
        are guardians
                 not guards.
The difference
is a subtle one.
A guardian protects,
advises and reports.
A guard is posted
to keep out
or not let in.

Always listen and evaluate
the guardian’s instructions.
Beware and be wary
        of the guards.
Not even dogs
who walk beside them
are approachable and friendly.

-from "Looking for a Friend", 1980

© 1976, 1980, 1988, 1998, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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