Friday, February 10, 2006

Fifty Years Ago: “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” hit the charts (2/10/1956)

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Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”

Writer(s): Frankie Lymon, Herman Santiago, Jimmy Merchant (see lyrics here)

First charted: 2/10/1956

Peak: 6 US, 15 RB, 13 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Frankie Lymon was “one of rock & roll’s first teen prodigies, [but also] one of its earliest tragedies.” RS500 He was w by 25, a penniless heroin addict. RS500 However, in his brief life, he contributed “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” which has been called “the perfect combination of commercial pop and doo-wop music.” SJ-166 At thirteen, Lymon became the youngest artist (at that time) to top the U.K. charts. SF He had a voice that had yet to succumb to puberty and the moves and personality which served as a model for future child pop stars like Michael Jackson. FR-66

Richard Barrett, who is called a producer in one source KL-38 and simply a singer for another local doo-wop group in another source SJ-166 is credited with hearing the group and bringing them to label owner George Goldner, KL-38 who also recorded the doo-wop classic “Gee” by the Crows. Herman Santiago was supposed to sing lead, but in more conflicting tales, was either sick that day SJ-166 or was just bumped because Goldner liked Lymon’s delivery better. KL-38

It should come as no surprise that with all the conflicting tales surrounding the song, the writing credits are also a matter of dispute. One account says that Lymon wrote it for his girlfriend, CR-458 but another source has member Jimmy Merchant telling a different tale. He says the group used to perform in the hallway of the building where member Sherman Garnes lived. A tenant named Robert offered the group some love poems from his girlfriend to see if they could make any into songs. SJ-166

“Robert’s girlfriend” does not show up in any writing credits, but a lot of other names do. Early vinyl pressings credited Lymon, Santiago, and Merchant. WK The song was later attributed to Lymon and Goldner, who eventually sold the rights to Morris Levy, a label owner notorious for claiming copyrights on songs he didn’t write. SF A 1992 court battle awarded credit to Santiago and Merchant WK but were returned to Lymon and Levy when, on appeal, a judge agreed that Levy hadn’t written the song, but that the lawsuit had been filed too late. SF Yet another source says a lawsuit awarded Santiago and Garnes with authorship. JA-215 It is, of course, the only incident in the history of recorded music of disputed royalties over a hit song. Ever.

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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