Sunday, March 4, 2012

Doo Wop Forever

Not the most important topic in the world,  but I couldn't help shaking my head and laughing about this article in yesterday's New York Times -  "A Doo-Wop Shop Prepares to Close, Signaling the End of a Fading Genre" - not only needlessly apocalyptic about this music, but illogical and ignorant.

Illogical, because to support the point that devotees of the doo-wop sound are "old or dying," the article cites Christine Vitale, a fan in her 40s who broadcasts a doo wop show on WFDU-FM Radio (I used to have a radio show, "Seminar on the Air," on WFDU when I taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the late 1970s).   Willie Winfield, the 89-year old lead singer of the Harptones ("Sunday Kind of Love," the first song I sang with my group, The Transits, in the early 1960s - hey, we were a little retro), is quoted as saying, “Just like rock ’n’ roll is here to stay, doo-wop will be here forever," but is dismissed as an "optimist".

The facts are that Mr. Winfield is right to be optimistic.   I just searched on "doo wop" on YouTube, and got "about 34,000 results".  Not quite dying, not by a long shot.  If Peter Applebome, author of the article, had been paying any attention to what's been going on in our popular culture, he'd know that YouTube bestows immortality to all music upon it, making it easily available to anyone of any age.   (See my 2009 book, New New Media, for more.)

Applebome distinguishes doo wop from jazz, which did indeed manage to survive the fabulous onslaught of rock 'n' roll.   Jazz of course did this, handsomely, in a age before YouTube.  There's no doubt that doo wop will not take the same path to survival.  But here's betting that those 34,000 YouTube doo-wop results will only expand in the years to come.

In the meantime, though I haven't had a chance to put this up yet on YouTube, here's a reel-to-reel tape recording of The Transits singing "I Only Want You" in Paul Gorman's basement (he sang bass, I sang first tenor) in the Bronx in 1963 ....

I Only Want You (sung by The Transits) by Paul Levinson


Stewart Tick said...

Christine Vitale is far from the youngest doo-wop devotee nowadays. Check out the Four Quarters (a young female group from Canada) and the Earth Angels (a young male group from Spain) on You Tube. Both groups have released CDs on small independent labels recently, too.

Paul Levinson said...

Excellent - I'll check them out!

Stewart Tick said...

Here's the latest from the Four Quarters. The song is "Please Believe", written by Raoul Cita, author of most of the Harptones songs in the 50s. (It's on their CD on the Crystal Ball label.) The lead vocal here is by 2nd soprano Catherine Helferty, currently a music major at Queens University in Ontario:

Torre` Brannon Reese said...

My name is Torre` Brannon Reese, adn I sing with an a`capella doo wop called, Street Corner Renaissance. We are based in Los Angeles, and just released our new CD, "Life Could Be A Dream". To date, we have over 64,000 twitter friends, and over 200,000 hits on youtube. Paul I love what you are doing and would love to connect. By the way, I wrote a rebuttle to that NY Times article about doo wop being dead. You are right on man. , 323 864-2656
Torre` Brannon Reese
Street Corner Renaissance

Paul Levinson said...

Hey Torre` - thanks for the comment. How about posting your Twitter and YouTube names here, so I and my readers can follow you and your singing (in the meantime, I'll see if I can find you based on your name).