Joseph Meyer

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Composer Joseph Meyer enjoyed a lengthy run of success from the heyday of Tin Pan Alley up through the 1940s, writing the music for pop standards like "California Here I Come" and "If You Knew Susie (Like…
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Composer Joseph Meyer enjoyed a lengthy run of success from the heyday of Tin Pan Alley up through the 1940s, writing the music for pop standards like "California Here I Come" and "If You Knew Susie (Like I Know Susie)." Meyer was born March 12, 1894, in Modesto, CA, and at age 13 spent a year in Paris studying violin. After high school, he worked retail jobs in San Francisco while moonlighting as a violinist at a local café. Meyer served in World War I, and eventually began to dabble in songwriting after his return; in 1921, he moved to New York City to try his hand at composing professionally. His first hit came rapidly with "My Honey's Lovin' Arms" (1922), a collaboration with lyricist Harry Ruby that was later recorded by Barbra Streisand. "California Here I Come," perhaps his best-known composition, followed in 1924; written with lyricist Buddy DeSylva, it became one of singer Al Jolson's signature tunes and a perennial standard. Another song originally written for Jolson, "If You Knew Susie (Like I Knew Susie)," didn't catch on at first, but turned into a major hit when sung by Eddie Cantor in 1925. That year was a productive one for Meyer, who turned out collaborations with Ballard MacDonald, Billy Rose (both of these two helped on "Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley," which became the theme for orchestra leader Charlie Kunz), Al Dubin, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Eddie DeLange, Frank Loesser, and more. In 1928, Meyer and Roger Wolfe Kahn co-composed the music for the hit "Crazy Rhythm," with lyrics by Irving Caesar. During the '30s, Meyer began to branch out into film as well, contributing songs to 1930's Remote Control and the 1931 Joan Crawford/Clark Gable melodrama Possessed ("How Long Will It Last?"). The 1934 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies featured several of his songs, mostly performed by Sophie Tucker, and the following year he wrote several songs for the film musical George White's Scandals of 1935. By the time the '30s ended, so had Meyer's heyday, although he penned the occasional composition here and there (including 1945's "Sergeant Housewife," with Dorothy Fields). Meyer was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame, and passed away on June 22, 1987, after a long period of ill health.