Elvis Presley songwriter Jerry Leiber dies at 78


Jerry Leiber talks to Sue Lawley on Nationwide in 1980

Jerry Leiber, the songwriter who penned such classic rock and roll hits as Elvis Presley's Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock, has died at the age of 78.

Leiber earned his reputation alongside co-writer Mike Stoller, penning tunes for The Drifters, The Coasters and Ben E King as well as Presley.

Leiber and Stoller infused their songs with influences from their blues and jazz backgrounds.

Leiber died of cardiopulmonary failure in Los Angeles, a spokesman said.

Leiber's career began in 1953 when Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton became the first artist to record Hound Dog.

Then a rhythm and blues number, the track went to the top of the charts.

The song would later become an even more successful hit record for Presley, who reinvented it as a rock and roll standard.

The pair also crafted the enduring Ben E King hit Stand By Me, seen by critics as one of their most influential and enduring songs.

Leiber and Stoller's work as a songwriting duo earned them 15 number one hits and secured them both entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987.

"The music world lost today one of its greatest poet laureates," said Terry Stewart, president of the Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Jerry not only wrote the words that everyone was singing, he led the way in how we verbalised our feelings about the societal changes we were living with in post-World War II life.

"Appropriately, his vehicles of choice were the emerging populist musical genres of rhythm and blues and then rock and roll," he told the Associated Press.

Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy in the US, also paid tribute in a statement published on the organisation's website.

"With a career that spanned musicals to R&B and rock and roll, Leiber's lyrical talent along with Stoller's composing skill helped shape the music of the '50s and '60s," he said.

"Together, they were an extraordinary team that generated a rich and diverse musical catalogue that leaves an indelible imprint on our cultural history."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Jerry, with Mike Stoller, were the first to use strings and introduce Latin rhythms to rock with the hit "There Goes My Baby", and were mentors and inspirational to the young Brill Building songwriters of the time, such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach.

    What a legend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    As a massive Elvis fan, I know full well that he played a big role in supplying many, many hits for the King. Another part of the Elvis legend has gone! RIP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    What a talent! What songs! Thank you so much Jerry Lieber.

    ... and thank you to the BBC for putting up a piece about Nick Ashford. Another great life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Sad news indeed.. I hope Jerry Leiber had the wonderful life he richly deserved. He made so many of our teenage years throughout the '50s & 60s a really magical time. Stand By Me will surely never be equalled, along with so many others.God Bless you man!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I was at a Leiber & Stoller All-Star Tribute Concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in (I think) 2001 The range of performers (and performances) was large and variable and the show ran on and on, but the standard of the songs was excellent. Hit after hit after hit.
    The end of an extraordinarily successful partnership.


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