VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Doo Wop Mixtape

When I started putting this ‘doo wop’ mixtape together I couldn’t remember all of the songs from their titles but within three or four vocal notes I was singing along. The music from the fifties remains part of my emotional compass. Most music lovers know what ‘doo wop’ is even if they are not devotees of the style. One big assumption is that this music grew directly out of the popular four-part harmony, church quartets (which generally were actually quintets—but that’s another story). The truth is more complex. Just as gospel music today has taken on many of the characteristics of contemporary popular music, in a similar way the bedrock gospel quartets were actually influenced by their secular counterparts, especially The Mills Brothers, as was the case with one of the most famous of all gospel groups, The Golden Gate. My point is that there is no simplistic demarcation between the sacred and secular choral styles, nor can we definitively say that one preceded the other or that one is directly descendant from the other. Even the themes and the content of the songs although divergent on the surface, are closer philosophically then one might first assume. Both religion and romance share a foundational belief in metaphysics, an emphasis on ideals rather than material and social reality. Those of us who came of age in the fifties were reared to be romantics. Even a casual listen to doo wop makes that clear. Long after I have forgotten most of the lessons I learned in high school, I still remember and relate to the songs I heard while I was in high school. I would like to argue that I don’t believe in those songs—I just remember the words—but if I’m truthful, I realize that although I may not consciously believe in romance, subconsciously I still value some romantic ideals. I wonder what beliefs will accompany the music of the current generation? All of these songs are from a 4-CD, Rhino Records set called The Doo Wop Box containing 101 Doo Wop songs and a 78-page booklet offering photos and historical background. I’ve had my copy for over a decade and periodically dip into it when I get a taste in my ear for one of the old favorites. I wonder how folk who’ve never before heard these songs respond? What do they hear? Is it too old-fashioned? Does the low fidelity make it hard to hear the beauty of the melodies and harmonies? Are the vocal mannerisms so passé that listening to the songs is painful? Hopefully, these historic offerings are interesting to new listeners. —Kalamu ya Salaam Doo Wop Mixtape Playlist 01 “The Glory Of Love” - The Five Keys 02 “Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite” - The Spaniels 03 “Sh-Boom” - The Chords 04 “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)” -The Penguins 05 “Sincerely” - The Moonglows 06 “Close Your Eyes” - The Five Keys 07 “Only You (And You Alone)” - The Platters 08 “The Great Pretender” - The Platters 09 “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” - Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers 10 “Devil Or Angel” - The Clovers 11 “In The Still Of The Night” -The Five Satins 12 “Oh What A Nite” -The Dells 13 “A Thousand Miles Away” - The Heartbeats 14 “Little Darlin' ” - The Gladiolas 15 “Been So Long” - The Pastels 16 “Get A Job” - The Silhouettes 17 “Book Of Love” - The Monotones 18 “Maybe” - The Chantels 19 “Tears On My Pillow” - The Imperials 20 “Ten Commandments of Love” - Harvey & The Moonglows 21 “16 Candles” - The Crests 22 “So Fine” - The Fiestas 23 “Since I Don't Have You” - The Skyliners, With Lenny Martin & The Orchestra 24 “I Only Have Eyes For You” - The Flamingos 25 “Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop” - Anthony & The Imperials 26 “Stay” - Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs 27 “Blue Moon” - The Marcels 28 “Daddy's Home” - Shep & The Limelites  

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One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Doo Wop Mixtape”

Mtume Says:
April 14th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Lovin’ it, Baba. Doo-wop’s waaaay before my time, obviously. Me being such a young man and all. (Ha-ha.) But so many of these tunes still give me good memories…not really sure why.

The ultimate has to be the Flamingos doing “I Only Have Eyes For You.” That one had to make many a young lady swoon back in the day. Then there’s all the other ones like “Been So Long” and “Devil Or Angel” and of course “Sh-Boom” and “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.”

You ever heard this record “On The Streets Of The Bronx” by Cool Change? It’s not a vintage fifties record – sounds more like something recording in the eighties. But it’s just harmonizing and finger snaps and the lyrics are so filled with nostalgia that they have the power to take you back to a specific time and a specific place even though you don’t know a thing about either.

Here’s the first verse:

On the streets of the Bronx
That’s where I want to be
Standing on the corner
Singing good ol’ harmony
I’ll be waiting for the man
To come along and discover me

Nice, right? I guess some things never change. Cats are still out there trying to get discovered by the man so they can get the hell out of the ghetto.

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