Eugene Doyle looks at the background to some popular
songs from down the years
SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME: On the day Don Pomus got married to his girlfriend Willi Burke, he wrote this song with Mort Shuman. He had polio and often used crutches to get around. On his wedding day, however, he was confined to a wheelchair. The song was intended to encourage Willi to have fun dancing at the wedding celebrations but to remember to save the last dance for him.
The song proved immensely popular and has been recorded by Dolly Parton, the Drifters, Ben E. King, Emmylou Harris, Michael Bublé and Daniel O’Donnell.
TOM DOOLEY: In 1866 in the state of North Carolina, Laura Foster was stabbed to death with a large knife. She was a girlfriend of Tom Dula (Dooley) who had served with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War of the early 1860s. Dula had an earlier girlfriend Anne Melton.
He went on the run but was eventually caught and put on trial. After being found guilty, he was hanged on May 1st 1868. On the gallows he declared, ‘Gentlemen, do you see this hand? I didn’t harm a hair on that girl’s head.’ This declaration led many to speculate that it was Anne Melton who had committed the murder, but Dula’s execution went ahead anyhow.
The Kingston Trio had an enormous hit with the song. Their recording sold over six million copies.
EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY: In 1964 the Beatles had a Number 1 hit in the United States with ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ and it seemed that it would stay there for weeks. Even Elvis Presley could do nothing to dislodge them.
Back in the 1940s Frank Sinatra and others recorded ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’, but with no great success. Then in 1964 Dean Martin recorded the song and, even though he performed well, no one really expected that this middle-aged (he was aged 47) singer with a broken nose and a scarred lip would have a major hit, but that was exactly what happened. His recording was so popular that it knocked ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ from the Number I spot.
Martin could not resist sending a telegram to Presley. ‘If you can’t handle the Beatles, I’ll do it for you, pally.’
From then on, ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ became his signature song. After his death, those three words were carved on his headstone in Los Angeles.
HOW GREAT THOU ART: One day in 1885, 26-year-old Carl Gustav Boberg, a Swede, was walking home with friends from a church service. As he later wrote, ‘nature was at its peak that radiant afternoon. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of corn. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in fresh cool showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared.’
At home Boberg opened the window and saw a bay of the sea like a mirror before him. Then he heard the song of a thrush and the pealing of church bells.
All these sights and sounds had their effect on him, and he was inspired to write nine verses of a poem in Swedish. He wrote no music to the text, but someone matched the poem to an old Swedish folk tune.
Later the poem was translated into German and Russian. In 1925 Professor Gustav Johnson translated it into English, but Stuart Hine’s later translation (entitled ‘How Great Thou Art’) is nowadays more commonly used. Hine was an Englishman who died in 1989 at the age of 90.
Roy Rogers, Carrie Underwood, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Burl Ives are among the scores of artistes who have recorded the hymn. Perhaps the most memorable recording of all was made by Elvis Presley.
YESTERDAY: This song has been recorded over 2,200 times. Among the famous singers who made recordings are Cilla Black, Frank Sinatra, Placido Domingo, Liberace, Ray Charles and Elvis Presley. It has been played more than 5 million times on radio and many people regard it as the best pop song ever written.
It is credited to Lennon-McCartney, but it is generally accepted having been written solely by Paul McCartney. He is said to have composed the music in a dream. ‘It was all there,’ he afterwards said. ‘A complete thing, I couldn’t believe it.’ Next morning he played it on a piano so as to avoid forgetting the tune.
For a long while he wrote no words to it but, while waiting for suitable words to arrive, he titled it ‘Scrambled Eggs’ with an opening verse that ran ‘Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs!’
The Beatles all agreed that the tune should have a one-word title. One morning, during a trip to Portugal in May 1965, he woke up realising that that one word should be ‘Yesterday.’ From then on, the song seemed more or less to write itself. He wrote the words on the back of an envelope. ÷