Death and Legacy
Perhaps one of the best stories about Johnny involves his loyalty to his family. In 1955, Capitol Records was sold to EMI Records and Johnny was able to sell his stock in the company. He became a millionaire from the sale. While deciding what to do with the money, he thought about how his father, George Mercer, had labored for most of his life to repay the debt from his failed business in the late 1920s. Johnny took his profits from the Capitol sale and cleared his father’s debt.
Generous acts such as these reached a smaller audience than his songs, but they were just as meaningful and moving. Johnny left an impressive legacy for anyone seeking to find success in a new life.
Later in his life, Johnny began experiencing dizziness, sometimes stumbling or hitting a wall as he lost his balance. Johnny put off seeing a specialist for some time, but he was finally diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. He had surgery to remove the tumor, but it did not go well. Johnny was left in a semi-comatose state, unable to communicate. He lived this way for eight months, passing away on Ginger’s birthday, June 25, 1976.
Johnny Mercer’s death was a great loss to the world of entertainment. His childhood in the south exposed Johnny to a rich verbal history and beautiful imagery both of which he carried with him his whole life, always returning “home” to Savannah when he needed to return to his roots. His ability to perform acts of generosity and kindness, and his lyrical genius to bring new emotions and experiences to his audience affected millions of people around the world.