It was one of the major driving forces in early rock and roll, but the very nature of doo-wop's humble origins, combined with a music industry that barely understood what to do with it, led to a lot of faceless one-hit wonders, confusing lineup changes, and classic artists nearly lost to history. This list is where the new doo-wop fan should get started learning all about the genre... though it was a phenomenon so rich and pervasive that parts of its history are still being uncovered today. Check out my list of essential doo-wop discs, books, videos, and more!
Before the advent of soul-blues, African-American music had a dual nature for hundreds of years: the sacred and the secular, the glorified and the vulgar. But when gospel met R&B, it birthed soul, and when soul met blues, the first generation of an aging black middle class found its true voice. Read all about, and hear all about, the history of "soul-blues" here.
They've all had one giant hit everyone knows by heart, but these 27 artists of the '50s, '60s, and '70s also managed to make it back to the Top 40, often with a similar song that got airplay at the time but has since become completely forgotten to history. So are these songs just pale imitations of the "one hit"? Sometimes they are. More often than not, though, they're good enough to make you wonder what might have happened. Hear and purchase these "two hit wonder" songs in my latest playlist!
The assassination of John F. Kennedy was an event so traumatic it didn't produce a US top 40 hit for five years -- and even then, radio only faced reality because of a series of similar shocks, a former doo-wop idol, a Louisiana swamp-popper, and, tangentially, a cartoon dog. Read all about the history and recording of "Abraham, Martin and John" right here.
The adorable Aussie who stole hearts in Grease and, to a lesser extent, Xanadu, Olivia Newton-John was the female face of soft-rock radio in the '70s, but she actually started out as a country singer -- or a countrypolitan one, anyway -- until she decided to undergo one of pop's major branding makeovers by getting "Physical." And in between all the changes Livvy proved herself a true survivor, not to mention a groundbreaking champion of causes we now think of as totally mainstream. Read all about the life, music, and career of Olivia Newton-John in this new profile.
These top 40 hits were the cream of the crop when it came to fetishizing America's greatest capitalistic achievement, the personal automobile. Back when Detroit was a symbol of hard work, progress, and ingenuity, AM radio offered up several hymns to the car as a symbol -- of freedom, of potency, of excess, and other values also cherished by the good old U.S. of A. Read all about the best Top 40 car hits of the oldies era, and the cars which inspired them, right here.
Before 1952, rural and urban rhythm and blues hits existed largely in two different camps in black America, but the year that changed all that, not coincidentally, also laid the groundwork for the acceptance of that coalition by white teens... that is, the birth of rock and roll itself. Read all about the best R&B songs of 1952 here.
It's become the unofficial anthem of Boston, an appropriately tough and uncompromising garage-rock standard that, thanks to the city's sports teams, has come to define "Boston Strong." But the Standells' "Dirty Water" isn't what it seems -- and for that matter, neither were the Standells themselves. Learn the complete history of "Dirty Water" in my latest fact sheet.