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Leiber and Stoller

What do we know about them?

They met in the late 1940s in Los Angeles. Jerry Leiber knew about black music and ghetto lingo. With it, he wrote crazy stories to which Mike Stoller put music.

As fans of blues and rhythm and blues, they started composing for race music artists. In 1953, they founded the Spark Records label and produced a large number of records for the most important artists of the moment.

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Elvis's best-known song was composed by the tandem Leiber-Stoler. It belongs to the soundtrack of the movie with the same title in which Elvis was the main star.

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Jerome Leiber was born in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1933, and Mike Stoller in Long Island, New York, that same year. When they met in Los Angeles, Stoller played the piano in a jazz band, and Leiber worked at a record store. Both were united by their taste for black music. They were two Jewish teenagers composing for black rhythm and blues singers, quite a challenge. Between 1953 and 1969, they collaborated with large companies and directed their own labels such as Spark, Red Bird or Blue Cat. 

What was their music like?

Their songs were based on a combination of rhythm and blues with pop-like lyrics. This mix revolutionized rock and roll and laid the foundation for the development of soul and girl groups.

They influenced both their contemporaries and later generations. Hundreds of artists, from Elvis to the Rolling Stones, have recorded their compositions, characterized by bringing together imagination, versatility, irony, and modesty.

The Beatles - Kansas City (1964)

One of the great bands of popular music does a version of a rhythm and blues song composed by Leiber and Stoler in 1952. It was one of their favorite songs.

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The Beatles once saw Little Richard mix Kansas City and their song Hey-hey-hey-hey on stage. They liked the result and, from 1962, they included it in their live repertoire. There are, among others, unauthorized recordings of their performance at The Cavern Club in Liverpool and Star-Club in Hamburg, both from 1962. In 1964, they performed it at their concert in Kansas on their tour through the United States. It was received with such enthusiasm that they decided to record it in one shot, and they included it on their Beatles for Sale album.

How did they manage to innovate?

In order to control the final product, they imposed a new system: they composed, arranged, directed the singers and recorded them. The figure of the record producer was born, the only one fully responsible for the process.

They conceived the album as a global work in which the raw material (musicians, songs and singers) and the artistic vision of a supervisor (producer) participate, as something which has just a few minutes to bring a story to life.

Ben E. King - Stand by Me (1961)

The adaptation of a gospel song, from 1955, which Leiber, Stoler, and King updated with a more contemporary sound. It is one of the best-known songs of soul music.

Leiber and Stoller created satires for The Coasters, robust songs for Elvis Presley, or romantic songs for The Drifters or Ben E. King. Titles such as Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock, Searchin ', Hound Dog or Stand by Me (signed under the pseudonym Elmo Glick). A small indication of their importance may be that they were the only ones with whom Elvis had shared the cover (Elvis Sings Leiber and Stoller, 1980). However, it was not until the 1970s that their contribution began to be evaluated.

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