Save The Last Dance

I’ve always had the greatest respect and admiration for songwriters. My views on them took shape in the late 1960s when I immersed myself in learning to play guitar. In the learning of songs, I recognised it was the authors I became most interested in. While it was (and still is) the performers that garnered all the attention of the media and the general public, I recognised that the songwriter was the real genius in the game.

The early 1960s was a fertile time for songwriters. During the preceding half decade or so, we were blessed with a new breed of talent: the singer-songwriter: Bob Dylan, Dion, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, John Sebastian, John-Paul-George, Paul Simon and Smokey Robinson to name a few. Prior to this period, songwriters labored in anonymity in the employ of publishing companies. “Tin Pan Alley” some named it.

One such songwriter was Doc Pomus. He usually provided lyrics and partnered with others whose strengths were more melodic. Doc was born Jerome Solon Felder in Brooklyn New York. He was a big athletic kid in his youth, but contracted polio as a boy and had to rely on crutches until he later had to depend on his wheelchair for mobility. In his teens, after hearing Big Joe Turner recordings, Doc developed a love for the blues. He pursued a performing career by singing in blues clubs where, in his words, he “was the only Caucasian in the clubs”. He earned respect from the club patronage with his courage as he would stand up in front of the club with his crutches and deliver his songs. I’ve heard recordings of his performances, and he sounded pretty good.

Though he recorded for several labels (including Chess), before long he recognised that producers weren’t much interested in promoting a crippled Jew as an artist singing “Race Music”, as it was called in the day. He began trying his hand at songwriting. In the early 1950s he married Broadway actress Willi Burke, who would be the love of his life. At his wedding, he was unable to dance with his bride and graciously sat by while his brother and other relatives danced with his new wife. It was this experience that spawned his great song, “Save The Last dance For Me”.

Under the rigors of their careers, the two finally resigned to divorce after many happier years, and several children later. This unhappy time spawned another incredible, sophisticated song, the Andy Williams hit “Can’t Get Used To Losing You”.

I’m not sure if anyone else is interested in stories surrounding the creative process, but they fascinate me.