Love’s Uncertainty in Doo-Wop Group Themes

Last week, I wrote about how one artist, Elvis Presley, spun a narrative about various aspects of love over three songs (and which he included in numerous others) spanning 10-12 years. I don’t know about you, but, every time I hear one of these songs, simply arranged and beautifully sung, my eyes tear up. The emotions expressed go to the heart of the matter of love (pun intended).

Today, I write about ballads sung by some of the greatest groups of the 1950s and 1960s—Lee Andrews and The Hearts, The Dubs, The Shirelles, Sonny Til and The Orioles—that bring aspects of love that we have all experienced to life. Listeners would need a stony disposition to be impervious to the feelings stirred up by these songs and the artists who recorded them.

“Tear Drops”—Lee Andrews and The Hearts

Although The Dubs’ career ran from the 1950s through the 1980s thanks to the many fine hit songs they recorded, “Could This Be Magic” stood the test of time and became their signature tune.  The song presents love as a wonderful gift that the tunesmiths stumbled upon.When we are young, many paths are available to us. Of course, once we choose one, it is impossible to go back. Actions have consequences, karmic strings become entangled, and some of us are overcome by regret.

“Run, Lola, Run!” a movie starring Franka Potente, shows this concept in action: Characters who take one extra step or hesitate for some reason change the outcomes of their lives. Love is especially affected by these decisions. Here are the lyrics to “Tear Drops”:

“Tear Drops”

I sit in my room
Looking out at the rain.
My tears are like crystals.
They cover my windowpane.

I was thinking of our lost romance
And how it should have been.
Oh, if we only could start over again.

I know you’ll never forgive me dear
For running out on you.
I was wrong to take a chance
With somebody new.

I sit in my room
Looking out at the rain.
My tears are like crystals.
They cover my windowpane.

I know you’ll never forgive me dear
For running out on you.
Oh, how I long to do
The things we used to do!

I’m lonely and blue
But I’ll try to get along without you.
Ah, AH, ah, AH,
teardrops, teardrops!

I have to get faith, hope, and charity.
God only knows the girl who will love me.
Oh, if we only could start over.
Again.

Never forget the magnificent lyric, “My tears are like crystals / They cover my windowpane.” What an image!

“Could This Be Magic?” by The Dubs

Although The Dubs’ career ran from the 1950s through the 1980s thanks to the many fine hit songs they recorded, “Could This Be Magic” stood the test of time and became their signature tune.[1] The song presents love as a wonderful gift that the tunesmiths stumbled upon.

Although The Dubs’ career ran from the 1950s through the 1980s thanks to the many fine hit songs they recorded, “Could This Be Magic” stood the test of time and became their signature tune.  The song presents love as a wonderful gift that the tunesmiths stumbled upon.As often happens, we attribute the unexpected discovery of something beneficial, especially love, to “magic.” I think expressing it this way conveys the truth of what the song communicates, and Truth/Honesty is critical to the success of relationships (especially for women, as you will see in the next song I discuss). Also note that the notion of “prayer” and a higher power appear briefly, themes that run throughout the history of doo-wops (and could be the impetus for another post).

Could This Be Magic?
Could this be magic
My dear,
My heart’s all aglow.
Could this be magic
Loving you so.
Could this be magic

My dear
Having your love.
My prayers were answered
So far from above.

I thought that it would be
Just a memory

To linger, my heart in pain.
But to my surprise,
I opened up my eyes,
And I’m with you dear once again
Could this be magic
My dear
Having your love.
If this is magic

Then magic is mine.
Could this be magic
Then magic is MINE.

The lyric contains an intriguing “Is it real or is it Memorex” section in which the singer seems unsure whether the hoped-for love is real or “just a memory” that the magic of prayer helped to recapture and retain. What do you think?

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” by The Shirelles

Written by Carole King and (then husband) Gerry Goffin, and covered by countless artists since, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” gives a woman’s voice to all the concerns brought about by physical intimacy:  Giving one’s heart. Pregnancy. Commitment. Honesty. Expectations. Here are the lyrics to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”Written by Carole King and (then husband) Gerry Goffin, and covered by countless artists since, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” gives a woman’s voice to all the concerns brought about by physical intimacy:  Giving one’s heart. Pregnancy. Commitment. Honesty. Expectations. Here are the lyrics to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

Tonight you’re mine completely
You give you love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure?
Can I believe the magic of your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I’m the only one.
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun?

I’d like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of.
So tell me now, and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?
So tell me now, and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

A wise woman once told me that, for a woman, marriage is a door opening, but for men, it is a door closing. My guess is that every woman knows this experience and sub-vocalizes, or, perhaps, speaks, these questions, while few men do. Except, perhaps, for the group singing the next song.

“It’s Too Soon To Know” by Sonny Til and The Orioles

Even in 1948, when Sonny Til and The Orioles recorded this song, it was clear that the lyric had a hermaphroditic aspect—it could be performed by either a man or a woman. My guess is that it was written for the latter, although I’ve heard both women and men cover it—Etta James, Pat Boone, Linda Ronstadt. With men singing about these emotions so feelingly, though, I can believe that men and women experience emotions that are much closer than stereotypes would have us believe. Decide for yourself.

The performance itself is magical, blending voices—including two leads—heartfelt lyrics, and a deceptively simple arrangement. The story relates an uncertainty about the outcome of the relationship, but a determination to go on living if his heart’s hopes don’t come to fruition. In this aspect, it is not unlike the sentiment expressed in “Teardrops.” Here are the lyrics to “It’s Too Soon To Know,” sung by Sonny Til and The Orioles:The performance itself is magical, blending voices—including two leads—heartfelt lyrics, and a deceptively simple arrangement. The story relates an uncertainty about the outcome of the relationship, but a determination to go on living if his heart’s hopes don’t come to fruition. In this aspect, it is not unlike the sentiment expressed in “Teardrops.” Here are the lyrics to “It’s Too Soon To Know,” sung by Sonny Til and The Orioles:

 

“It’s Too Soon To Know”

Does she love me?
It’s too soon to know.
Can I believe her
When she tells me so?
Is she fooling?
Is it all a game?
Am I the fire
Or just another flame?

A one-sided love
Would break my heart.
She may be just acting
and playing a part.
If she don’t love me
Let her tell me so.
I can’t hold her
If she wants to go.

Though I’ll cry
When she’s gone.
I won’t die.

I’ll live on.
If it’s so

It’s too soon,
Way too soon
To know.

Technologies will come and go, styles of music fade, but the power of unconditional love will last forever. Vocalizing is one of the most powerful ways people have found to express their emotions. If you have ever been in love, you know.

[1] For a breathtaking a cappella rendition of “Could This Be Magic?” listen to the cover by Johnny Maestro (maybe the greatest tenor/bel canto voices ever) and either The Crests or The Brooklyn Bridge; my personal favorite.

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