“In my heart it will remain, that stardust melody, the memory of love’s refrain.”
Those are lyrics from Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael’s well-known 1927 jazz song “Starlight.” The song features Carmichael solo playing the piano and singing.
Since its release, “Stardust” has been reproduced numerous times and was featured in the popular television show The Crown in 2022. In 2004, Carmichael’s original recording of “Starlight” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Carmichael is a Bloomington native; born, raised, studied, performed and buried in town. In 1920, he enrolled in Indiana University Bloomington and graduated in 1926 with a Bachelor of Law degree. While studying at IU, Carmichael formed a band called “Carmichael’s Collegiates,” which became well-known around campus. According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, Carmichael — a self-taught pianist — originally composed “Starlight” at a piano outside The Gables on Indiana Avenue while still in law school.
Writing, composing and producing music was his calling, so his career as a lawyer did not last long. Carmichael moved out of Bloomington after graduating from IU and eventually made his way to New York City. It was there that his musical potential was recognized on a large scale and he began to garner a following. While in New York City he became good, lifelong friends with Louis Armstrong, a famous American trumpeter.
Eventually, Carmichael moved to Hollywood where he expanded his music career into the film industry as an on-screen performer and actor. His debut film “Topper” released in 1937, in which he portrayed a piano player. In 1946 Carmichael started his radio career with the “Hoagy Carmichael Show” and in 1951 he won an Oscar for his song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” that was featured in a Bing Crosby film. After retiring in the 1960s, Carmichael was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971 for being “one of the most inventive and adventurous of the great American songwriters.”
In 2008, Carmichael permanently joined IU’s Bloomington campus in statue form. His statue, sculpted by Bloomington native Michael McAuley, portrays him sitting at a piano and is located outside the IU Auditorium by Eagleson Avenue.
As Carmichael wrote best in his 1940 song performed by American singer Kate Smith: “Can’t get Indiana off my mind, that’s the place I long to see.”