Song of the Week – Save the Last Dance for Me, The Drifters (Doc Pomus)

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor, Michael Paquette.  This is Michael’s sixth post since February 2020.

Doc Pomus was a blues singer in the 1940s who would later become one of the most prolific songwriters in American history.  He was crippled by polio as a child and spent most of his adult life confined to a wheelchair.  Doc Pomus was married to the Broadway actress and dancer Willi Burke.  On their wedding day she danced with friends and family while he wrote the lyrics to today’s SotW.  Here is the 1960 version of “Save The Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters with a classic vocal by Ben E. King. 

The song was released as a B-side but Dick Clark flipped it over and decided it was the stronger song. He was proven right when it became a number one hit on all the charts.  It was also released by The Searchers and later recorded by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and the European star Dalida, who, because she could sing songs in ten different languages, was the most Internationally famous French singer in history.

The song contains the refrain that captures the mood:  “But don’t forget who’s taking you home / and in whose arms you’re gonna be / so darling, save the last dance for me.”

Doc Pomus was born Jerome Felder and he liked to say that he was called Doc because his songs made you feel good.  This song, along with several other classic hits he wrote, including “This Magic Moment,” A Teenager In Love,” “Turn Me Loose,” “Suspicion,” and “Surrender”, certainly fit the bill.

Elvis recorded 20 songs written or co-written by Doc Pomus (mostly with Mort Shuman) including the classic “Little Sister.”  Doc Pomus never actually met Elvis.  He was in a press line waiting to meet him at the Hilton in NYC in 1974 but \ before he got the chance he was told that Elvis had left the building.  Three years later they arranged a meeting but Elvis died a week before it was to happen which spooked Doc.

Doc Pomus had a revival to his career in the late 1970s, writing songs for Dr. John and producing the debut albums for Roomful of Blues and the Fabulous Thunderbirds (unreleased).

He was the first white recipient of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award and he is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

His songs were recorded by Mink DeVille, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Dr. John, Solomon Burke, John Hiatt, Shawn Colvin, Lou Reed, The Band, B. B. King, Roseanne Cash, Charlie Rich, Andy Williams, Ruth Brown, Marianne Faithful, Irma Thomas, Joe Cocker, ZZ Top, The New York Dolls, Los Lobos, Dion and hundreds of others.

Doc Pomus died on March 14, 1991, of lung cancer at the age of 65 at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan.  His legend and songs live on.  “Save The Last Dance for Me” is one of my favorites from his incredible library of work.

Enjoy… until next week.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.