WHEN OCTOBER GOES, JOHNNY MERCER’S UNFINISHED SONG

November 1st, 2012 3:18am

JOHNNY MERCER

Sometimes strange things happen when I begin my daily search for a new story behind the music. It was yesterday, October 31 and while rummaging around for something to write, I discovered a Johnny Mercer song I had never heard before, When October Goes.  Odd, I thought that I should find the song on this last day of the month, October 31.  And then like Mercer, I also found myself wondering.  In this 2012 world of economic and political turmoil, what WILL happen when October goes? 

Johnny Mercer was one of the greatest lyricists of all time having been responsible for the words to Autumn Leaves, Blues in the Night, Charade, Come Rain or Come Shine, Day In Day Out, Days of Wine and Roses, Dream and so many more.  His contributions to the music of Broadway and Hollywood made him a living legend. 

In addition to being one of America’s great creators of popular songs, Johnny Mercer was, according to Gene Lees, author of his biography, The Life of John Herndon Mercer, a nasty drunk, funny, tender, melancholic, tormented, immensely talented, plagued by self doubt,  much admired and loved but never understood. 

What could Mercer have been thinking as he worked on the lyric to When October Goes? And how did Johnny think October would end when he entered Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California on October 15, 1975? He knew something was seriously wrong and finally agreed to surgery for a malignant brain tumor.  Johnny died nine months later on July 22 and had to know his days were coming to an end as he wrote lyrics to the song he’d never hear with music added. Later, Mercer’s wife who knew that Johnny had a high regard for singer/composer Barry Manilow asked Barry to add music to Johnny’s lyrics and complete the song. 

When October Goes…odd that I should hear it for the first time yesterday, October 31. Here’s a Music Video of Barry Manilow singing the song.  You’ll also learn Johnny Mercer’s last thoughts as he wrote the lyrics to When October Goes.

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MUSIC VIDEO