- 1899-11-22 - 1981-12-27
Hoagland Howard Carmichael was an American jazz singer-songwriter. Born and raised mostly in central Indiana, Carmichael's only real musical training were piano and voice lessons from his mother when he was a child. He attended high school and college in Bloomington, Indiana, playing piano and travelling around Indiana with his friend Bix Beiderbecke. Carmichael would eventually earn a law degree in 1926. He passed the Indiana bar exam but devoted most of his time to writing music. He recorded his first major song, "Star Dust," in late 1927, playing the piano himself and accompanied by Bix and members of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. By 1929, with some limited success with other songs like "Washboard Blues," Carmichael gave up trying to be a lawyer and moved to New York City. There he met sheet music producer Irving Mills. Mills published "Star Dust" as "Stardust", with lyrics by Mitchell Parish added, as well as "Rockin' Chair". The latter was recorded by Louis Armstrong and quickly became a hit; the former finally saw commercial success when it was recorded by Isham Jones the next year in 1930. "Stardust" would be recorded again and again by a number of other famous artists for the next several decades.
Carmichael followed up his successes with another jazz standard, "Georgia on My Mind." Then, in 1933, he met up-and-coming lyricist Johnny Mercer. The pair went on to write several dozen songs, the most popular of which were "Lazybones," "Moon Country," and "In the Cool, Cool, Cool, of the Evening." Carmichael also began performing professionally. In 1936 he moved cross-country to Hollywood, working as a contracted songwriter for Paramount Pictures and occasionally acting as a character actor while continuing to write individual songs. In 1941 his continuing collaboration with Johnny Mercer produced another instant hit: "Skylark." The 1940s were arguably the peak of Carmichael's career, with numerous recordings, acting roles, and radio programs; the 1950s were filled with appearances in television variety shows. Aside from Ray Charles' 1960 hit recording of "Georgia On My Mind," however, Carmichael's songwriting career waned in the era of rock'n'roll and never recovered. He died of heart failure at the age of 82.