Doc Pomus and Mort Schuman wrote this classic in 1960. It was originally recorded by Ben E. King and the Drifters in 1960.
Pomus had polio as a child and used crutches to get around until later in life, when he used a wheelchair. The irony of a man who can’t dance writing a song about watching his lover dance with another is powerful stuff, and Lou Reed has told the story that the lyric was inspired by Pomus’s wedding day, when he married a Broadway star and dancer, but could not dance his own wedding dance.
All of which would be way too much, except it’s true. And the song is not comfortably romantic. There is angst, lots of angst in there, too.
Which is what helps make Leonard Cohen’s closing time singalong with 14,000 Irish so touching. Oh, that and Leonard’s age. We’re all too freakin’ human.