Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (1956)

59. Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (Feb. 18, 1956, #6)

The story of Frankie Lymon represents one of the great tragedies  and monumental travesties of rock 'n' roll and incidentally a fine cautionary tale about the music industry, its sordid origins and questionable business practices (which persist to this day, though it has also seen a good deal of comeuppance in the past decade, and few industries deserve it more richly, at least speaking in general terms). But complaining about the music industry is like complaining about professional sports, or the weather. Nobody ever does anything about it, and the point quickly becomes ever-diminishing, particularly when it's someone like me with my sour, broken-record attitude, which only has the effect of making me a notably difficult source to take seriously on the issue. So, here, go read up on the basics about Lymon if you're interested. For various reasons (Lymon himself not least among them), this distilled essence of pure doo wop joy would turn out to be just about the sum total of everything we ever got from him and his crew, certainly far and away the best of it. The bass singer groans it into motion, a snare drum powers it into action, and a simple arrangement provides all the setting needed for the primary charm, which is Frankie Lymon's pristine 13-year-old soprano vocal soaring and swooping and asking the eternal questions: "Why do birds sing so gay / And lovers await the break of day? ... Why does the rain fall from up above? ... Why does my heart skip this crazy beat? ... Why do fools fall in love?" A chattering sax comes along at one break to underline the point that what we have here is rock 'n' roll, and to make it a fun dance record. It's as simple and as profound as you want to make it, and by all rights it ought to last approximately forever.

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