MTSU’S WINDHAM SERIES LECTURER TO FOCUS ON MERCER’S MUSIC
North Carolina Author Brings ‘Skylark’ Discussion April 10
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 25, 2008
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina E. Fann, 615-898-5385
(MURFREESBORO)—Distinguished author Dr. Phillip Furia, chair of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will be the guest speaker on Thursday, April 10, at 5 p.m. in the T. Earl Hinton Hall in MTSU's Wright Music Building for the 2008 Windham Lecture Series.
"Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer" is the title of Furia's book and the topic of the lecture. According to Furia, it will be "more of a mini-show than a lecture."
Becky Windham, daughter of Dr. William and the late Westy Windham, for whom the lecture series is named, will sing chosen songs of Mercer accompanied on the piano by Dr. Geoffrey Haydon of Georgia State University.
"One of the things I want to talk about is that Johnny Mercer was the only songwriter of that era to come from the South," said Furia, noting that two other popular songwriters of the mid-1930s to the mid-'50s, George Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein, were both from New York and of Jewish backgrounds.
"As a Southerner, he (Mercer) brought a difference to the lyrics he wrote," Furia continued. "He was more influenced by nature and the landscape. Mercer loved to sit outside the black churches and listen to the choirs sing."
The renowned songwriter, who recorded self-penned hits as well as singing others' tunes, also listened to Louis Armstrong and Ma Rainey.
"Mercer was more influenced as a kid growing up in Savannah," Furia said, adding that Gershwin and Hammerstein were more affected by the city life that surrounded them.
Furia explained that Mercer was primarily a lyricist and couldn't even read music. The music was usually written first for Mercer, Furia said, adding that the process of writing lyrics for music is like working a crossword puzzle. "The music is there. You just have to fit a syllable to a note."
Mercer, who went on to co-found Capitol Records, was the co-writer of classics like "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Hooray for Hollywood," "Jeepers Creepers," "Blues in the Night," "Moon River," "Glowworm" and "Skylark."
Furia's writings on American popular song have been praised in The New York Times, The London Times and The New Yorker. He also has made appearances on "Larry King Live," A&E's "Biography" and the PBS series "Broadway: The American Musical."
Currently in its 17th year, the Windham Lecture Series in Liberal Arts was established in 1990 through the MTSU Foundation. Dr. William Windham was a member of the MTSU history department's faculty from 1955 to 1989 and served as chairman of the Department of History the last 11 years. Westy Windham (1927-1991) earned a master's degree in sociology at MTSU and was the founder of the Great American Singalong.
The Windham Lecture Series is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts. For more information, contact 615-494-7628.
IN BRIEF: Distinguished author Dr. Phillip Furia, chair of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will be the guest speaker on Thursday, April 10, at 5 p.m. in the T. Earl Hinton Hall in MTSU's Wright Music Building for the 2008 Windham Lecture Series. "Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer" is the title of Furia's book and the topic of the lecture. According to Furia, it will be "more of a mini-show than a lecture." For more information, contact 615-494-7628.
For MTSU news and information, visit www.mtsunews.com.
ATTENTION, MEDIA: For a color JPEG of Dr. Furia and a color TIFF of his book jacket, please contact Gina E. Fann in the Office of News and Public Affairs via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 615-898-5385.