The Jazz Age had college students kicking up their heels to the Charleston and believing the world was theirs for a song. Hoagy Carmichael was a law student at Indiana U. when his friend, cornet-playing Bix, asked him: “Why don’t you try writing some music?”
Jazz music exerted its irresistible pull on Hoagy Carmichael’s life, and he started to write out the tunes that wouldn’t stop buzzing around in his head.
Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke recorded Carmichael’s “Riverboat Shuffle” and the popular bandleader Paul Whiteman championed his work. By 1930, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were having hit records with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind,” “Up a Lazy River” and “Rockin’ Chair.” And Carmichael wrote dozens of American songbook favorites—”Skylark,” “Star Dust,” “How Little We Know,” and his Oscar-winning “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.”
With his hat tilted back on his head and a cigarette dangling from his lips, he’d sit hunched over the piano keyboard and sing in a lazy Midwestern drawl. Hoagy Carmichael cultivated this folksy, laid-back image in the movie To Have and Have Not with Lauren Bacall—and he translated it to the concert stage and on records. He was America’s first songwriter to step out into the spotlight and make it as a star performer—leading the way for generations of singer-songwriters from Bob Dylan to Diana Krall.
Hoagy Carmichael’s songs have never fallen out of fashion. They’ve continued to be widely recorded by artists including Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles and Norah Jones.
This week, The Jim Cullum Jazz Band welcomes piano legend Dick Hyman and vocalist Stephanie Nakasian for a concert of Hoagy Carmichael’s music, recorded live at the historic Filoli Gardens near San Francisco.
Photo credit for Home Page and Recent Radio Broadcast Page:
Songwriter Hoagy Carmichael Photo songbook1.wordpress.com
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2011