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Up a Lazy River with Hoagy Carmichael


Howard Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael was born at the tail end of the 19th century—November 22, 1899—and wrote some of the most important songs of the next one. The long list includes “Am I Blue?” “Stardust,” “Up a Lazy River,” “Rockin’ Chair” and “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.” The latter was used in the film “Here Comes the Groom” and won Carmichael an Academy Award.

The writer was a charismatic pianist/singer as well. He was white, but got much of his musical schooling in Bucktown, an African-American neighborhood near his childhood home in Bloomington, Indiana.

Carmichael attended Indiana University and received both undergraduate and law degrees. He also started a jazz band. One of the musicians he hired was Bix Beiderbecke, a cornetist and one of the most important figures in the history of jazz.

Carmichael’s career hit high gear in the later years of the Roaring Twenties. In 1927, he wrote “Stardust,” which originally was “Star Dust.” Mitchell Parish added the lyric two years later.

The bios detail the successes that Carmichael had in the ensuing years. The names that come up show that he was a player, both literally and figuratively. He played, wrote with or was recorded by the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer, Benny Goodman, Joe Venuti, Johnny Mercer, Ray Charles and Bud Freeman.

Carmichael, who died in 1981, seems to have had a particularly strong relationship with the ill-fated Beiderbecke, who introduced him to Louis Armstrong. Carmichael’s first child was named Hoagy Bix.

Carmichael died in 1981. There is not a lot of good video of Carmichael. Luckily, he appeared in the movie “To Have and Have Not,” with Humphrey Bogart and the gorgeous Lauren Becall. Two two songs here — “Hong Kong Blues” and “Am I Blue?” — are from the film.

Bio.com and Wikipedia were used to write this profile.

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