15 Best Doo Wop Songs – Top 50s and 60s Songs We Love
The era of doo wop music was a special time, and it doesn’t get the appreciation it rightly deserves. So in this article, we’re going to countdown the best doo wop songs that we think are not only the most memorable for their lyrics and harmony, but were performed by talented groups that deserve more recognition.
Best Doo Wop Songs You Will Love
Let’s begin with a song entitled “Blue Moon” by The Marcels.
15. “Blue Moon” by The Marcels
The introduction to The Marcels’ version of “Blue Moon” is one of the most famous and recognizable doo-wop portions of a song. It’s a perfect example of alliterative, percussive doo-wop vocals that turn gibberish into exciting, emotional music.
“Blue Moon” was originally a stage song in the 1930s, but this version by The Marcels became one of its best-known interpretations. This version also makes for a fun comparison with Elvis Presley’s slow, sensitively yearning version, which had been released a few years prior.
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14. “Rama Lama Ding Dong” by The Edsels
Many a pop song has made gibberish syllables into deeply emotional expressions, and “Rama Lama Ding Dong” is a product of that tradition. One would be surprised to meet someone named Rama Lama Ding Dong in real life, but in the context of the song, the name projects just the type of freewheeling, joyous love that doo-wop is renowned for.
Oh, and here’s a fun fact. If you like the movie “Grease,” then you’ll probably remember that the cast sings the phrase “Rama Lama Ding Dong” during one of the final musical numbers (“We Go Together”). This song by The Edsels’ came out in 1958, and funny enough “Grease” takes place in 1958, as well. So you can tell the producers of “Grease” did their homework here!
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13. “Morse Code of Love” by The Capris
“Morse Code of Love” is a funny example of doo-wop referencing modern, atomic age technology to tell a typically romantic story. Morse code itself, made up of dots and dashes, makes a surprisingly apt metaphor for doo-wop background vocals, which typically alternate between rhythmic bursts and sustained harmonic lines.
12. “Speedoo” by The Cadillacs
While it prominently features the trademark doo-wop backing vocals, The Cadillacs’ “Speedoo” sticks out from other doo-wop hits by embracing a more bluesy lead vocal line. “Speedoo” is a fast-paced, hard rocking number with the rhythm of a steam train. Fittingly, the lyrics describe a narrator who does everything the fast way.
11. “I Wonder Why” by Dion & the Belmonts
Hailing from the Bronx, Dion & the Belmonts excelled at creating vocal parts that were driving and percussive. Their breakout hit, “I Wonder Why,” prominently displays this talent, with background vocals that mimic energetic jazz drum fills before the voices unite around harmonies that further raise the song’s emotional fervor.
10. “Book of Love” by The Monotones
“Book of Love” is one of the most recognizable songs in the doo-wop catalog. It is masterful in its use of evocative imagery to tell a quick and catchy pop music story, creating a metaphor for love and relationships that consists of progressive chapters.
“Book of Love” has also enjoyed a long pop cultural afterlife. Sha Na Na covered it at Woodstock, Don McLean referenced it in his hit song “American Pie”, and a successful 80s synth pop band named themselves after it.
9. “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings
The Del-Vikings’ “Come Go With Me” is notable for its backing vocals, which are even more prominent than is usually the case in doo-wop. The backing parts are exceptionally layered, dancing and swirling around the lead part’s syllables. This creates a sort of echo chamber effect, as if the backing parts are bouncing off the walls as the leader singer walks down a reverberant hallway. The Del-Vikings were also notable for being one of the only racially mixed pop groups to find chart success in their era.
8. “At the Hop” by Danny & the Juniors
Decorated by ascending harmonies that convey the excitement of teenagers heading out on the weekend, “At the Hop” paints a vivid image of 50s-style fun. The lead vocals are charged and nimble, trading the emotional falsetto found in much of doo-wop for a level tone and relaxed attitude. The song also features prominent boogie-woogie style piano, pushing the rock and roll energy over the top.
7. “Get a Job” by The Silhouettes
Released in 1957, “Get a Job” was one of the most commercially successful as well as one of the most influential doo-wop songs. The song topped both the pop and R&B charts, and is credited with “inventing” two or three different staple doo-wop singing hooks. On top of that, the song’s lyrics are based on real-life parental advice!
6. “Stay” by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs
In a genre full of catchy hooks, “Stay” has some of the best, with a stratospheric falsetto chorus that leans farther into doo-wop’s romantically desperate emotions than most. The backing rhythm employs more of a shimmying shuffle than many other doo-wop songs, which tend to rely on a straight-ahead rock and roll bop.
While “Stay” would later reach greater commercial success when recorded by the likes of The Four Seasons and Jackson Browne, Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs had an original doo-wop flair that none of the covers can match.
5. “Remember Then” by The Earls
While it feels unlikely that it was on purpose, “Remember Then” is one of top doo-wop songs of all time if for no other reason than its lyrics channel the nostalgia that the genre is now so heavily associated with. The cultural moment that doo-wop accompanied proved to be far more fleeting than most of its audiences ever could have imagined at the time. A song like “Remember Then,” which wistfully recalls a lost teenage romance, seems like all too fitting a metaphor.
4. “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” by Curtis Lee
The soaring falsetto leads that accent the into to “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” connect with the pure ecstasy that so many doo-wop songs celebrate. Like many other great doo-wop songs, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” also uses sound effects to underline its emotional impact, in this case bells. The song is notable for its use of an extra wide vocal range, with baritone background vocals contrasting against high-flying falsetto.
3. “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters
Doo-wop is a genre squarely framed around the lives of teenagers, and few songs embrace this to more humorous effect than “Yakety Yak.” Written by famed songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Yakety Yak” is a timeless anthem for parents who are putting the brakes on their children’s big city rock and roll adventures until every last chore is done – with no attitude, please and thank you. While the song is easily identified as hailing from the late 50s, the narrative has somehow hit home for every generation since.
2. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers were one of the seminal early doo-wop groups. They were aptly named, as their lineup consisted of a mixed race group of actual teenagers, led by Lymon. Anchored by Lymon’s exuberant, spritely vocals, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” was the Teenagers’ biggest hit and one of the iconic songs of the 1950s. The song’s lyrics feel eerily foreshadowing in hindsight, as they seem to revel in the innocent qualities of 1950s pop culture with the knowledge that it wouldn’t last.
Lymon himself would meet a tragic early death in the late 60s at the hands of a heroin overdose, after having picked up a habit on the show business circuit when he was only 15. In spite of the harsh realities that surround Lymon and the pop culture world at large, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” remains a delightful classic.
1. “I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos
The Flamingos create a surreal, heavenly atmosphere on “I Only Have Eyes for You” that is unmatched in doo-wop, making it the genre’s greatest song. The repeating background vocal figure in the verses changes from doo-wop convention by arriving in quick bursts rather than a sustained harmonic note, leaving an amount of space that conjures the wide open night time scenes that the song describes.
On the chorus and bridge, the background vocals blossom into ecstatic harmonic layers that bring the song’s romantic devotion to life. Meanwhile, the lead vocals describe a love that is sublimely intoxicating to the point that the real world seems to all but melt away.
Doo-wop songs are fun, heartbreaking, and of course nostalgic. They showcase some of the sweetest and most inventive vocal harmonies in pop music history. This list of the best doo wop songs explores a number of the genre’s greatest hits, and the various qualities that set these songs apart in a crowded musical medium loaded with talent.
This article was written by Nathan and edited by Michael.
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