Wednesday, November 11, 2009


American composer, pianist, singer, actor and bandleader Hoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael, was born on November 11,1899, in Bloomington, Indiana. He is best known for writing "Stardust" (1927), "Georgia on my Mind" and "Heart and Soul", three of the most-recorded American songs of all time.

Alec Wilder, in his study of the American popular song, concluded that Hoagy Carmichael was the "most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented" of the hundreds of writers composing pop songs in the first half of the 20th century.

Carmichael was the only son of Howard Clyde Carmichael and Lida Robison. He was named Hoagland after a circus troupe "The Hoaglands" who stayed at the Carmichael house during his mother's pregnancy. Howard was a horse-drawn taxi driver and electrician, and Lida a versatile pianist who played accompaniment at silent movies and for parties. The family moved frequently, as Howard sought better employment for his growing family.

At six, Carmichael started to sing and play the piano, absorbing easily his mother's keyboard skills. By high school, the piano was the focus of his after-school life, and for inspiration he would listen to ragtime pianists Hank Wells and Hube Hanna. At eighteen, the small, wiry, pale Carmichael was living in Indianapolis, trying to help his family’s income working in manual jobs in construction, a bicycle chain factory, and a slaughterhouse. The bleak time was partly spelled by four-handed piano duets with his mother and by his strong friendship with Reg DuValle, black bandleader and pianist known as "the elder statesman of Indiana jazz" and "the Rhythm King", who taught him piano jazz improvization.

The death of his three-year-old sister in 1918 affected him deeply, and he wrote "My sister Joanne—the victim of poverty. We couldn’t afford a good doctor or good attention, and that’s when I vowed I would never be broke again in my lifetime." She may have died from influenza, which had swept the world that year. Carmichael earned his first money ($5.00) as a musician playing at a fraternity dance that year and began his musical career.

Carmichael attended Indiana University and the Indiana University School of Law, where he received his Bachelor's degree in 1925 and a law degree in 1926. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and played the piano all around the state with his "Collegians" to support his studies. He met, befriended, and played with Bix Beiderbecke, the great cornetist (and sometime pianist) and fellow Mid-westerner. Under Beiderbecke’s spell, Carmichael started to play the cornet as well, but found that he didn't have the lips for it, and only played it for a short while. He was also influenced by Beiderbecke's impressionistic and classical musical ideas. On a visit to Chicago, Carmichael was introduced by Beiderbecke to Louis Armstrong, who was then playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and with whom he would collaborate later.

He began to compose songs, "Washboard Blues" and "Boneyard Shuffle" for Curtis Hitch, and also "Riverboat Shuffel", recorded by Beiderbecke, which became a staple of jazz and Carmichael’s first recorded song. After graduating in 1926, he moved to Miami to join a local law firm but, failing the bar exam, returned to Indiana in 1927. He joined an Indiana law firm and passed the state bar, but devoted most of his energies to music, arranging band dates, and "writing tunes". He had discovered his method of songwriting, which he described later: "You don't write melodies, you find them…If you find the beginning of a good song, and if your fingers do not stray, the melody should come out of hiding in a short time."

He passed away on December,1981.

Ray Charles sings and plays "Georgia on My Mind"
Reference - Wikipédia

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