Monday, January 24, 2011

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers-Why Do Fools Fall in Love

Fourteen years olds and a number one hit: this eternal jamandahalf. Over the course of a year, five more top-ten hits. An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was a young lead singer who had all the makings of becoming the next big thing-a pop star who had the potential to remain relevant for decades. Unfortunately, his career and universe came crashing down on him, and he would be dead in eleven years from a heroin overdose.

This story, crazy enough for a modern Shakespearean tragedy (or mediocre movie), is the life tale of Frankie Lymon, the lead singer of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, a group of young teenagers who got together for one year, made one of my favorite songs of all time (this classic track) and then disappeared into a musical black hole. Frankie's life story seems altogether too crazy to have actually happened to a real person. Growing up pimping prostitutes before he was even a teen, Frankie got a lucky break and got signed as the Teenagers with four other young cats. After making number one with this jam, and hitting the top 10 with five other songs, it seemed like the band was destined for stardom. But the band quickly broke up, and combined with a maturing voice, a growing heroin habit, and epic bad luck, Frankie bounced around from small gig to small gig. Throw in a complex love-square (he was at one time married to three different woman-at the same time), a miscarriage by his first wife, time spent in the army, and his eventual death by overdose, and you have a true rock and roll story, one that sadly ended in tragedy.

What will always live on though is his jams. Just a few seconds into this song you get a sense of the incredible voice of Frankie. Singing with a passion far beyond his fourteen years, Lymon nails every note. It's hard not to hear a young man who is singing like there is no tomorrow, over a doo-wop beat which still has fingers snapping across the world. Like the triumphant trumpet solo in this jam, Frankie's career (and life) was too short, but with the Teenagers he reached a peak that most artists only dream about. Frankie and his boys paved the way for many young Motown groups, including a group of brothers with another incredible young lead singer, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. But I say the real way to honor his career is to sing along to this one as loud as possible.

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