Hoagland Howard Carmichael, better known as Hoagy Carmichael, was born in Bloomington, Indiana on November 22, 1899. He was the musical genius behind two of the most recorded songs of all time, “Stardust” and “Heart and Soul.”

The musical talent of Hoagy Carmichael began in southern Indiana. His mother named him Hoagland after a circus troupe called “The Hoaglands” that stayed with Carmichael’s parents while his mother was pregnant.

Hoagy’s mother was a very talented pianist, and she played in many silent movies. She taught Carmichael how to sing and play piano. By age six Hoagy was giving recitals. He spent the vast majority of his young years through high school studying the piano.

Hoagy moved to Indianapolis when he was 18 and attempted to earn enough money working several labor jobs to send money home to help support his family. During this time, he also learned jazz improvisation.

Sadly, his little sister died at age three in 1918 because the family could not afford to get her adequate medical care. This event had a devastating effect on Hoagy, and he vowed to find success in his career to help his relatives. He completed his undergraduate and law degree at Indiana University, and he also enjoyed continued success in music.

By 1927, “Stardust” and “Washboard Blues” as performed by Paul Whiteman were becoming huge hits across the country. Because Hoagy spent most of his time at the Indiana law firm where he worked thinking about his music, he was eventually fired. He then went to Hollywood and later New York City to advance his musical career.

In the 1930s, Carmichael worked with legends like Louis Armstrong. He even wrote “Georgia on My Mind,” which would later become one of Ray Charles’ biggest hits. In 1931, Bing Crosby recorded a version of “Stardust,” further launching the fame of the song and its writer. He soon frequented the same circles as George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Fred Astaire in New York City.

In 1935 Hoagy Carmichael married Ruth Meinardi, and they later had two sons named Hoagy Bix and Randy Bob. The family moved to California after Hoagy accepted a $1000 a week contract to work for Paramount Films. Some of his best work was composed for major films over the next two decades.

Carmichael’s film success was huge. He appeared as an actor in 14 major films, and he always played at least one of his songs in each movie. He even won an Academy Award for Best Song for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.” During this time, he was still writing songs for outside the movie world as well. Many of his songs were political in nature, speaking out against FDR as a staunch Republican. He also hosted three musical variety shows on the radio during this time.

Hoagy Carmichael was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1971. He died of heart failure in California in 1981, but his musical legacy lives on today. In fact, numerous modern musicians cite him as a big influence. For instance, John Lennon once said Carmichael was his favorite songwriter.

Hoagy Carmichael wrote two autobiographies, released together as one book in 1999. In 2008, a mural featuring his picture was dedicated to him in Richmond, Indiana.


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