Thursday, April 26, 2007

Doc Pomus Lonely Avenue

I have recently been reading "Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life And Times Of Doc Pomus" by Alex Halberstadt. Doc Pomus was one of the 20th Century's most significant songwriters.

Doc Pomus was born Brooklyn in 1925, he became a fan of the blues after hearing Big Joe Turner on record. He began performing as a teenager, becoming one of the most successful blue-eyed blues singers of his time. In the 1950's, Pomus started songwriting in order to make enough money to support his wife. A CD was released in 2006 CD by Rev-Ola (Cherry Red Records) titled "Doc Pomus Blues in the Red." collating his recordings from the 40's and 50's.

By 1957, Doc had given up performing in order to devote himself full-time to songwriting. He collaborated with pianist Mort Shuman to write for Hill & Range Music Co./Rumbalero Music at its offices in the Brill Building in NY. Their songwriting efforts had Pomus write the lyrics and Shuman the music, although occasionally they worked on both, and produced the hit songs: "Teenager in Love"; "Save The Last Dance For Me"; "This Magic Moment"; "Turn Me Loose"; "Sweets For My Sweet"; "Can't Get Used To Losing You"; "Little Sister"; "Suspicion"; "Surrender" and "His Latest Flame (Marie's The Name)".

Their songs were recorded by, among many others, Lorraine Ellison, Brook Benton, Alexis Korner, Bobby Charles, Lil Green, Gatemouth Moore, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles, The Lovelites, The Crowns, Laverne Baker, Major Lance, Big Joe Turner, Ben E. King, Cissy Houston, The Flamingos, Ike & Tina Turner, The Coasters, and The Drifters. A compilation of some lesser known, but excellent recordings of songs by Pomus and Shuman is to be released in June by Ace Records.

During the late '50s and early '60s Pomus also wrote with Phil Spector, Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber and other Brill Building era writers.

In the 1970s and 1980s out of apartment at the Westover Hotel at 253 West 72nd Street, Pomus wrote songs with Dr John and Willy DeVille for what he said were "...those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain of not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed." These later songs ("There Must Be A Better World" and "There Is Always One More Time" in particular), which were recorded by B.B. King, Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams which I consider to be his finest songs. Johnny Adam's "Sings Doc Pomus" is one of the finest albums of the 90's.

Together with Shuman and individually, Doc Pomus was a key figure in the development of popular music. He was elected to the Songwriters hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Doc died in 1991 leaving us with a wealth of songs which are fine testament to his talents.

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