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Johnny Mercer

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  • Singer, songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

    Singer, songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

  • A bench pays tribute to Savannah native Johnny Mercer, who is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.

    A bench pays tribute to Savannah native Johnny Mercer, who is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.

  • The great songwriter Johnny Mercer is memorialized in Savannah, his hometown, with a life-size statue.

    The great songwriter Johnny Mercer is memorialized in Savannah, his hometown, with a life-size statue. Credit: Jim Byous

  • Savannah native Johnny Mercer penned more than 1,500 songs during his career.

    Savannah native Johnny Mercer penned more than 1,500 songs during his career. Credit: Courtesy of the Special Collections & Archives, Georgia State University

With no further training than a Savannah childhood and a lifelong love of popular songs, Johnny Mercer became one of the most well-known and prolific songwriters of his era—a period spanning from the 1930s to the ’70s—and an artist respected as a legend today. Primarily a lyricist, Mercer’s songs include everything from big-band staple "Accentuate the Positive" (written in 1944 with Harold Arlen) to "Moon River," his collaboration with Henry Mancini on the soundtrack to 1961’s "Breakfast At Tiffany’s."

Though he was responsible for more than 1,500 songs, Mercer was more than a songwriter. In his prime, he was also well known for his singing. His laid-back, jazzy vocals owed much to his Southern heritage and his affection for African-American musical traditions. His own recordings were among the biggest sellers at Capitol, the record label he co-founded in 1942. In addition to singing, as Capitol’s president he took a major role in talent scouting in the label’s first five years, ushering Nat Cole and Peggy Lee to the top of the charts.

Even though Mercer’s traditional pop was eventually supplanted by rock 'n' roll, he notched success after success in the postwar era, primarily in films. His songs earned four Academy Awards and notched another 18 nominations.