Dennis Drabelle is rarely off the mark, but his book review of “Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World” [“He wrote the words that make the whole world sing,” Arts, Jan. 5] declared that Mercer “had only one peer as a lyricist: Cole Porter.” Excuse me? With all respect to both Mercer and Porter, how could one forget the inimitable Lorenz Hart, whose rhyme-smithing and syntactical genius during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s produced some of the wittiest and best-loved treasures in the great American songbook?
Such Broadway songs as “Mountain Greenery” (“Beans could get no keener re-/ception in a beanery. . .”) and “I Wish I Were in Love Again” (“When love congeals/ It soon reveals/ The faint aroma of performing seals”) delight vocalists to this day. But his tour de force may have been that anthem of spouse-extermination from the lethal princess in “A Connecticut Yankee” (1927): “Sir Atherton indulged in fratricide/ He killed his dad and that was patricide/ One night I stabbed him by my mattress-side/ To keep my love alive . . . I caught Sir James with his protectoress/ The rector’s wife, I mean the rectoress/ His heart stood still: angina pectoris/ To keep my love alive.” Who has ever had more fun with words and music?
Ken Ringle, Washington