When she was about ten years old, Margaret Whiting sang a song for Johnny Mercer, the lyricist who wrote "Hooray for Hollywood" and "Too Marvelous for Words" with her father, Richard. "My mother wanted to know if I should take singing lessons," Whiting recalls. "Johnny listened to me and said, 'I've got two words of advice‹grow up.' In other words, I should take it easy and give myself time to develop. And he was right." Whiting went on to become one of the first artists signed by Mercer when he founded Capital Records, and she's now featured in Dream, a new musical based on the lyrics of her friend and mentor. In tribute to the man who won four Oscars (with 17 nominations) for songs like "Moon River" and "The Days of Wine and Roses," the show ends with an Academy Awards section, but the settings also include Mercer's native Savannah, the Rainbow Room and the Hollywood Canteen during World War II.
"This is the time for Mercer," Whiting believes. "I'm hearing more of his songs done by cabaret singers than ever before. He was a poet, and his words touch people of all ages."
As the president of the Johnny Mercer Foundation, Whiting devotes much of her free time to making grants to charities and individual artists. "We pick two or three young songwriters and give them money for a concert of their works," she explains. "Johnny used to reach out to people like Burt Bacharach and Jim Webb, and it's great to continue what he loved to do."