Yoko Ono (6) And Leiber & Stoller (11) Go Head To Heads In SOTC's March Madness

The Round of 64 for Sound of the City's own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues to chug along, and you get to help choose who makes it to Round Two. This morning's first match puts the avant-garde leading light Yoko Ono (seeded sixth in the Uptown division) against the prolific pop architects Leiber & Stoller (in at No. 11). Check out the arguments in favor of each contestant below, then cast your ballot at the bottom of the page.

Despite being overshadowed in the popular imagination by her husband's legacy, Yoko Ono was, and remains, a massively important figure in avant-garde culture. Born in 1933 in Tokyo, Japan, and raised in Japan and the US, Yoko's peace-loving worldview was informed by traumatic events like the 1945 bombing of Hanoi, which she lived through. By the time she met John Lennon in the mid-'60s, she was already a successful multimedia artist who'd exhibited with the Fluxus movement and collaborated on experimental music with John Cage. Her 1981 single "Walking On Thin Ice" is often credited as an early example of New Wave, and her unabashed interest in feminist themes, modernist composition, and primitive female vocals has influenced everyone from the B-52s to tUnE-yArDs. At 79, she's still recording and performing with her re-formed Plastic Ono Band and shows no signs of stagnation.
Jamie Peck

"Stand By Me," "Yakety Yak," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Potion No. 9"—these songs have existed in the American pop-culture firmament almost since they were committed to wax, and the songwriting and producing team of Leiber & Stoller had tons more where that came from. Their fusing of mid-century R&B with early rock and roll made for pop chart manna, and their hits just kept on coming all the way through the early '70s, when they helmed "Stuck In The Middle With You" for Stealers' Wheel. But while they may have stopped producing, the influence of those early hits hung over pop music for years—look no further than former Voice writer Cristina Monet's transformation of their seen-it-all lament "Is That All There Is?" into a warped anthem for the ersatz-debutante set for proof of just how far their influence reached.
Maura Johnston

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Johnny G
Johnny G


Peter Stoller
Peter Stoller

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote some two dozen songs that Elvis recorded, from "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock" to "Bossa Nova Baby" and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town." They did not, however, write "Heartbreak Hotel"; that song was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.In terms of their "quintessential New York musician" props, it should be noted that Leiber & Stoller were the deans of the Brill Building scene in the early to mid '60s. In their work as producers of the Drifters and Ben E. King, they introduced the defining sound of the era by mixing pop and R&B with orchestral strings and latin rhythms. They also promoted the careers of such writers as Bacharach & David, Goffin & King, and Mann & Weil (with whom they cowrote "On Broadway"), while Phil Spector sat on the sidelines, furiously scribbling notes for his own career. Their legendary hit machine, Red Bird Records, was home to writer/producers Barry & Greenwich and Shadow Morton and groups from The Dixie Cups to The Shangri-Las.

Their catalog is the basis for "Smokey Joe's Cafe," the most successful musical revue and jukebox musical in Broadway history. When you're going head-to-head for NY cred, I think that's the sort of thing that deserves a mention.

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