Longtime Venice resident Jerry Leiber, whose 60-year partnership with Mike Stoller produced one rock and roll hit after another, died Monday of cardiopulmonary failure at the age of 78.
Leiber was born in Baltimore on April 25, 1933. He was a senior at Fairfax High School in 1950 and Stoller was a freshman at L.A. City College when the two met and hit it off with a love of music. They began writing together to amuse themselves but within three years they were turning out R&B hits for the Drifters, the Coasters, and others.
Leiber wrote the lyrics and Stoller the melodies for dozens of songs, including their first number one hit, “Hound Dog” performed by Elvis Presley, but originally written for Big Mamma Thorton.
It was Presley who brought Leiber and Stoller to a much wider audience, as seen here in a memorable performance on the Milton Berle Show in 1956. Leiber and Stoller were seminal figures in the birth of the then-new genre of rock and roll.
Their songs include "Kansas City," "Yakety Yak," "Smokey Joe’s Café," “Poison Ivy,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Potion No. 9,” and “Is that All there Is?”
Collaborating with others bore fruit as well. The duo wrote “Stand By Me,” with Ben E. King, “There Goes my Baby,” with King and George Treadwell, “On Broadway” with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and “Spanish Harlem” with Phil Spector.
A revue of the songs of Leiber and Stoller, “Smoky Joe’s Café” opened in 1995 and ran for 2,036 performances. It won five Tony Awards including best musical, and the soundtrack won a Grammy Award.
Leiber and Stoller are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and they have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Lieber lived for years on Ocean Front Walk. His creative presence will be missed.