Midnight Sun

Music by Lionel Hampton & Sonny Burke, 1947
Words by Johnny Mercer, 1954

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Marc De Bruyn (emdebe@village.uunet.be), September 7, 2003

The music to "Midnight Sun" was composed by Lionel Hampton (1908-2002) and Sonny Burke (1914-1980) in 1947; the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer (1909-1976) in 1954.

"Your lips were like a red and ruby chalice, warmer than the summer night / The clouds were like an alabaster palace rising to a snowy height / Each star it's own aurora borealis, suddenly you held me tight, / I could see the Midnight Sun / I can't explain the silver rain that found me—or was that a moonlight veil? / The music of the universe around me, or was that a nightingale? / And then your arms miraculously found me,suddenly the sky turned pale, / I could see the Midnight Sun / Was there such a night, it's a thrill I still don't quite believe, / But after you were gone, there was still some stardust on my sleeve / The flame of it may dwindle to an ember, and the stars forget to shine, / And we may see the meadow in December, icy white and crystalline / But oh my darling always I'll remember when your lips were close to mine, / And we saw the Midnight Sun"

Recorded by many artists: Carmen McRae, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Jack McDuff, Johnny Mercer, Julie London, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Woody Herman, ...

Johnny Mercer, regarded as one of America's greatest songwriters (in the early 1940s, he was one of the co-founders of Capitol Records—he has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1628 Vine Street, right outside the Capitol Records building), was often asked to write lyrics to already popular songs; the lyrics to "Midnight Sun" and "Satin Doll" (music by Duke Ellington) were all written after the songs were already hits. Mercer, together with Henry Mancini, wrote the Academy Award-winning "Moon River" for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961). He also wrote "Jeepers Creepers" (1938), together with Harry Warren (born Salvatore Guaragna, 1893-1981, see: "Chattanooga Choo Choo"). Some of his other songs (co-written with Harold Arlen): "Blues In The Night" (1941), "That Old Black Magic" (1942), "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)" (1943), and "Come Rain Or Come Shine" (1946).

Lionel Hampton was a bandleader, jazz percussionist and vibraphone virtuoso. "Hamp" ranks among the greatest names in jazz history and worked with a who's who of jazz musicians, from Benny Goodman (1909-1986) to Charlie Parker (1920-1955) to Quincy Jones. Hampton is credited with popularizing the vibraphone as a jazz instrument. Hampton's bands fostered the talents of Illinois Jacquet, Dexter Gordon (1923-1990), Charles Mingus (1922-1979), Wes Montgomery (1925-1968), Quincy Jones, Benny Golson, Fats Navarro (1923-1950), Kenny Dorham (1924-1972), Clifford Brown (1930-1956), Dinah Washington (1924-1963), Betty Carter (1930-1998), Arnett Cobb (1918-1989), and Earl Bostic (1913-1965), among many others. Hampton's recording of "Flying Home" (1939) with the famous honking tenor sax solo by Jacquet, is considered by some to be the first rock and roll record. Quincy Jones once stated that Hamp was like a rock and roll musician in that "Hamp would go for the throat every night and the people would freak out".

Sonny Burke, composer and arranger studied piano and violin as a child, later learning the vibes, which would become his signature instrument. He served as chief arranger for both Jimmy Dorsey (1904-1957) and Charlie Spivak (1907-1982) and also found success in composing and arranging for television and film. Some of his most famous work was for the Disney animated feature "Lady and the Tramp" (1955). Burke recorded several albums during the fifties and sixties and produced many of Frank Sinatra's best works. He also composed and conducted for such artists as Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald. He served as musical director for both Reprise and Warner Brothers Records and founded his own company, Daybreak Records.


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