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Hoagy Carmichael

hoagy carmichaelHoagland Howard "Hoagy" Carmichael (November 22, 1899 – December 27, 1981) was an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. He is best known for writing the melody to "Stardust" (1927), one 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.


Born in Bloomington, Indiana, 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 to support his studies. After graduating in 1926, he moved to Miami to join a local law firm but returned to Indiana in 1927 to devote his energies to music.
Carmichael maintained a lifelong affiliation with Indiana University. In 1937 he wrote the song "Chimes of Indiana" which was presented to the school as a gift by the class of 1935. It was made Indiana University's official co-alma mater in 1978. Carmichael also holds the distinction of being awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the university in 1972.


While still a student, he wrote the songs "Washboard Blues" and "Boneyard Shuffle" for Curtis Hitch and also made the acquaintance of Bix Beiderbecke, who recorded his "Riverboat Shuffle".hoagy carmichael

Carmichael joined ASCAP in 1931. Aside from "Stardust" (partially composed on a piano in the Book Nook store across the street from the Indiana University School of Law ), he wrote "Rockin' Chair", " Heart & Soul", "New Orleans" and "Georgia on My Mind." He also collaborated with Sidney Arodin on the standard "Up a Lazy River." His collaborations with Johnny Mercer include "Lazybones" (1933), "Skylark" (1942), and "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening", which won the 1952 Oscar for Best Original Song. With lyricist Frank Loesser he wrote "Two Sleepy People" (1938). He also contributed to the 1941 animated film, "Mister Bug Goes to Town." Carmichael was inducted into the USA's Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.


Between 1944 and 1948, Carmichael was the host of three musical variety radio programs: In 1944-45, the 30-minute Tonight at Hoagy's aired on Mutual Sunday nights at 8:30 pm (Pacific time). Produced by Walter Snow, the show featured Carmichael as host and vocalist. The musicians included Pee Wee Hunt and Joe Venuti.

NBC carried the 30-minute Something New at 6 pm (Pacific time) on Mondays in 1945-46. All of the musicians in this show's band, the Teenagers, were between the ages of 16 and 19. Carol Stewart and Gale Robbins were the vocalists and comedy was supplied by Pinky Lee and the team of Bob Sweeney and Hal March.

The Hoagy Carmichael Show was broadcast by CBS from October 26, 1946 until June 26, 1948. Luden Cough Drops sponsored the 15-minute program until June 1947.

Films and television

Carmichael appeared as an actor in 14 motion pictures (most notably the Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall classic To Have and Have Not, Young Man with a Horn with Bacall and Kirk Douglas and The Best Years of Our Lives with Myrna Loy and Frederic March), often singing and playing the piano on his own compositions. Among his numerous television roles, he was a regular on Laramie (1959-63), co-starred in The Helen Morgan Story on Playhouse 90 (1957) and provided the voice for a stone-age parody of himself, "Stoney Carmichael," on an episode of The Flintstones.hoagy carmichael


Carmichael wrote two autobiographies: The Stardust Road (1946) and Sometimes I Wonder (1965). These were combined into a single volume for a paperback published by Da Capo in 1999.

Author Ian Fleming wrote in his novels Casino Royale and Moonraker that British secret agent James Bond resembled Carmichael, with a scar down one cheek. In Casino Royale, Bond compares himself unfavorably with Carmichael.

When Richard M. Sudhalter wrote the first full biography, Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael (Oxford University Press, 2002), Publishers Weekly reviewed:

Sudhalter skillfully blends cultural and personal history, demonstrating how growing up in Indiana, a racial and musical crossroads for myriad touring musicians and entertainers, profoundly influenced Carmichael. Sudhalter paints vivid pictures, trying to divine the biographical inspiration for such Carmichael hits as "Ole Buttermilk Sky," "Georgia on My Mind" and "Lazy River." At times, Sudhalter's detailed notes on composition weigh heavily on the narrative. It's hard to imagine that the new audience Sudhalter hopes to entice would derive much pleasure from his scholarly dissections. Thankfully, the stiff bits are drummed between long runs of imaginative exposition. Sudhalter draws from numerous interviews, archival material, recorded music and Carmichael's personal papers to show that the laid-back man at the piano, cigarette dangling from his lips, was, for the most part, image. Carmichael, far from being carefree, embodies the American myth--hardworking, self-taught, recognized for his efforts and pushed aside by the next big thing: rock and roll.

Carmichael died of heart failure in Rancho Mirage, California. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.