Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Jerry Leiber

"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog" ... "Yakety yak, don't talk back" ... "There's a riot goin' on in cell block No. 9" ... The funkiest poetry of the early age of rock came from lyricist Jerry Leiber, who died Aug. 22 at 78 in Los Angeles.

Leiber was just 17 when he met composer Mike Stoller, and before they could vote, they had an R&B hit in "Hound Dog." When Elvis Presley took that to No. 1, they wrote "Jailhouse Rock" for him. Leiber created the sassy radio playlets that made the Coasters clown princes. They did grownup songs too, like Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" Satirist and cutup, Leiber wrote the words for the 60-year all-night party that is rock 'n' roll.

This text originally appeared in the Sept. 5, 2011 issue of TIME magazine.