Facts about Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael died at 82 years old
Best known as: The composer of "Stardust"

     

Hoagy Carmichael Biography

Name at birth: Hoagland Howard Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael is the 20th-century musician and composer who wrote “Star Dust,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and other nostalgic hits that became part of the Great American Songbook.

Hoagland Carmichael grew up mostly in Bloomington, Indiana and learned to play piano at an early age. He graduated from Indiana University in 1925 and earned a law degree in 1926, all the while playing in jazz bands to earn money. He became friends with trumpeters Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke and (to a lesser degree) Louis Armstrong, who both had a major influence on Carmichael’s musical style.

After a brief attempt at practicing law, Carmichael moved to New York City in 1929 to pursue a life in music. By then he had already composed the tune that became his most enduring hit, “Stardust,” a dreamy tribute to the nostalgia of lost love. (The lyrics were added by Mitchell Parish. With a few exceptions, Carmichael wrote only the tunes to his songs and relied on lyricists for the words.) Over the next quarter-century, Carmichael wrote a string of popular hits, often blending simple, down-homey themes with sophisticated melodies: “Skylark,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Up a Lazy River,” “Rockin’ Chair,” “Heart and Soul,” and “The Nearness of You.”

Carmichael moved to Hollywood in the 1930s to compose music for the movies, and later became an unlikely hit as an actor as well; he was a piano-playing sidekick in movies like To Have and Have Not (1944, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) and the Oscar-winning postwar drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Lean and good-natured, with a reedy singing voice and an Indiana twang, he became a familiar celebrity to Americans in 1940s and 1950s, hosting his own radio shows and making guest appearances on the radio and TV shows of others.  He won an Oscar (along with lyricist Johnny Mercer) for the song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from the 1951 film Here Comes the Groom.

Hoagy Carmichael was an inaugural inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. He wrote two memoirs: The Stardust Road (1946) and Sometimes I Wonder (1965).

 

 

 

 

 

Extra credit

His unusual first name, Hoagland, came from the name of a circus troupe that had stayed with his family shortly before he was born. Then nickname Hoagy was given to him in college… Hoagy Carmichael married the former Ruth Meinardi in 1936, and they were divorced in 1955. They had two sons: Hoagy Bix (born 1938) and Randy (b. 1940)… Carmichael married his longtime girlfriend, former actress Wanda McKay, in 1977, and they remained married until his death four years later… Hoagy Carmichael wrote “Georgia On My Mind” in 1930, with lyrics by by Stuart Gorrell. Ray Charles recorded “Georgia On My Mind” in 1961, and it became the best-known version of the song. The Georgia legislature declared it to be the official state song in 1979.


     

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