© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“The late Alan Jay Lerner, himself a major lyricist, considered Johnny Mercer the finest of all American lyricists. Alan Bergman who, with his wife Marilyn, constitutes one of the best lyric-writing teams the United States has known, shares that opinion. One songwriter went so far as to say that Mercer's lyric to 'When the World Was Young' is one of the finest poems in the English language. His words have passed into the common vocabulary of the United Stales, and indeed all the English-speaking world.”
- Gene Lees, Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer
While the editorial staff at JazzProfiles is hard at work preparing an extended feature about the late lyricist extraordinaire, Johnny Mercer, I thought it would be fun to share the words to “... one of the finest poems in the English language” and a video of Nat King Cole singing them as lyrics.
“It isn't by chance I happen to be a boulevardier, the toast of Paree,
For over the noise, the talk and the smoke, I'm good for a laugh, a drink or a joke,
I walk in a room, a party of all, come sit over here, somebody will call
A drink for monsieur, a drink for us all, but how many times, I sat and recall.
Are the apple trees, blossoms in the breeze that we walk among,
Lying in the hay, games we used to play, while the rounds were sung,
Only yesterday when the world was young.
Wherever I go they mention my name, and that in itself is some sort of fame,
Come by for a drink, we're having a game, wherever I go, I'm glad that I came.
The talk is quite gay, the company's fine,
There's laughter and lights and glamour and wine.
And beautiful girls and some have been mine, but often my eyes see a different shine.
Are the apple trees, sunlit memories, where the hammock swung,
On our backs sweet lie, looking at the sky, till the stars were strung
Only last July when the world was young.”