Doo-wop! Simple, sunny and enjoying a revival
Even Beyoncé is getting in on the act, as the sound of the Fifties sets 21st-century toes atapping
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Sunday 10 February 2013
It was the music that spawned – or at least made a generous contribution to – a generation. And now it's back. Described as barbershop harmony with beat, doo-wop's golden age in the 1950s was a thing of nostalgia. Now a slew of new albums look likely to lead a Lazarus-like resurgence.
Beyoncé, fresh from a barnstorming Super Bowl appearance, has revealed that her new album will feature doo-wop prominently. Ryan Tedder, her co-writer, told Rolling Stone magazine that she would not be following current music trends: "She's not interested in 2012, she's interested in what's 2013." Critics described her recent Super Bowl performance of her Destiny's Child hit "Single Ladies" as "a reinterpretation of that anthem as a girl-group doo-wop".
Another artist going back to his roots is Aaron Neville, lead singer of the Grammy-winning Neville Brothers, who has just released a solo album, My True Story, which celebrates doo-wop. Neville says his musical education came from groups such as the Drifters, the Clovers and the Flamingos, and had such an influence on him that their sound has kept recurring throughout his career. "I've been into every doo-wop there is. I think I went to the university of doo-wop-ology," he said. Surprisingly, the album represents the singer's first foray into the top 10, reaching number seven.
Other groups are also rushing to celebrate the sounds pioneered by such groups as the Orioles, the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers.
Two British bands, the Magnets and the Overtones, are enjoying growing success. The Overtones' Mike Crawshaw said: "We work to a doo-wop template that harks back to bluesy pre-rock'n'roll R&B. We learnt our trade with a cappella, which is different from normal pop as harmonies are a constant throughout. You get artists like Plan B, Cee Lo Green and Amy Winehouse – frankly, you could plonk them straight back in the Forties or Fifties, and they'd sound like the songs we're doing. It's going to be around for some time. It's beautiful, the way music should be."
The term "doo-wop" was taken from the ad-lib syllables sung in harmony in traditional songs from the genre. The 1955 hit "When You Dance" by the Turbans containing the chant "doo-wap" in the chorus is credited with its first use, but historians suggest it was the success of "In the Still of the Night" by the Five Satins, with its "doo-wop, doo-wah" refrain that cemented the name.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-driver is missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
The Great British Bake Off, series 6, preview: The most popular show on television is back
National Geographic Traveller Photo Contest 2015 winners in pictures
US bookshop offers Go Set A Watchman refunds over false marketing as 'nice summer novel'
Sherlock season 4: Benedict Cumberbatch will be 'a lot less brattish' in Victorian special
Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar enter Forbes' highest paid actors list for first time
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke