Rock & roll songwriter Jerry Leiber has died of cardiopulmonary failure at the age of 78.

Leiber, who wrote Stand By Me, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Young Blood, On Broadway and Yakety-Yak with Mike Stoller, died unexpectedly at LA's Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre yesterday with his family by his side.

Songwriting partner, Mike Stoller said: 'He was my friend, my buddy, my writing partner for 61 years. We met when we were 17 years old. He had a way with words. There was nobody better."

He added: "I am going to miss him."

Stoller and Leiber met in Los Angeles in 1950 when Leiber was still in high school, and sharing a love for R&B, they started to write music together straight away, with Leiber writing the lyrics and Stoller creating the music.

In 1990, Stoller told Rolling Stone: "When Jerry and I started to write, we were writing to amuse ourselves, It was done out of a love of doing it. We got very lucky in the sense that at some point what we wrote also amused a lot of other people."

He added: "Jerry was an idea machine, For every situation, Jerry had 20 ideas. As would-be songwriters, our interest was in black music and black music only. We wanted to write songs for black voices. When Jerry sang, he sounded black, so that gave us an advantage . . . His verbal vocabulary was all over the place – black, Jewish, theatrical, comical. He would paint pictures with words."

Leiber and Stoller wrote songs for the Drifters, Coasters and the Robins, as well as Elvis Presley with which they had a huge hit with Hound Dog.

The duo never stopped working together. Earlier this year, American Idol devoted an entire show to their music.