Friday, June 3, 2011

Johnny Mercer: Another Reason to Be Rather Fond of the Episcopal Church (Apr 2010)

If you've ever crooned along with Moon River, Summer Wind or Days of Wine and Roses, you can thank songwriter and lifelong Episcopalian Johnny Mercer.

A Savanah, Georgia native, Johnny Mercer was singing in a choir by age 6 and had memorized most of the hymns by 12. He soon left home for New York then Hollywood where he worked as an actor, singer and songwriter, penning more than 1,500 songs during his 45 year career.

Mercer won the Oscar for 'Best Song' four times. He also co-founded Capitol Records where he served as the company's first president. He often made film and TV appearances working with Henry Mancini, Bobby Darin, Hoagy Carmichael - even Barry Manilow recorded one of his songs following Mercer's death.

Mercer died in 1976, and recently, at a commemoration of his 100th birthday, Christ Church Episcopal Church in Savanah unvelied a life-size bronze statue of the famous songwriter. His niece, Nancy Mercer Gerard said, "Uncle Johnny loved this church with all his heart, and he loved being an Episcopalian... the Episcopal Church was for him - as it is for all of us - a place where there is a depth of spirituality and a common desire to serve God and God's world with grace and dignity."

During this Holy Week where song, and the absence of it, plays such a formative role, we too, seek iinspiration from melody and lyric - how might the Spirit be speaking to us through music?

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