The Drifters–Save the Last Dance For Me (1960)

I started working on this blog on Monday the 20th. On Tuesday evening my uncle, Joseph Vernon Edwards passed away at the age of 89. He leaves behind his sweetheart Marcella shortly after celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. While putting the finishing touches on it this afternoon, it just seemed fitting to remember him and the love they had together knowing that when it’s time for her dance on this earth to be over that her last and eternal dance will be with the one she spent such a rich life with.

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Most of the time these blogs are about performers, but today I want to focus on a songwriter.

Doc Pomus was born Jerome Solon Felder in Brooklyn in 1925. Having been crippled by polio at the age of 6, he gravitated to music first playing the saxophone, then as a singer like his idol, Big Joe Turner. Being Jewish and disabled, Felder felt a kinship with African Americans in the role of an underdog. Likewise, many in the clubs were impressed with his courage and his musical ability. By the mid-50’s he had fallen in love with a beautiful actress and singer named Willi Burke. As they made plans to marry, and tiring of the day to day life of a blues singer, he began to turn to songwriting, and it’s the relationship between the two of them that leads to this song.

The song was written by Pomus and Mort Sherman about a year after Pomus’ marriage. Looking back at many of his songs, coupled with journals that he kept much of his life, we find that like many songwriters, Doc wrote about things that were personal. Stories about others mixed with his reflections on life. On his and Willi’s wedding day, Doc was sitting at the table watching his talented and attractive wife dance with his brother, he was taken by how lucky of man he felt he was, but at the same time unable to be on the dance floor with the one he loved. He wrote about how after the music was over, and the dance partners left, there was one dance left. That dance of devotion, and love that comes with a bond that goes beyond the physical, but to the heart.

“Save the Last Dance for Me” was rejected more than a few time until The Coasters picked it up as an album cut in 1960. Atlantic at the time chose it as the “B” side, but when Dick Clark heard it for the first time for potential broadcast, he suggested to Ahmet Ertegun that the “B” side was the actual hit. It was flipped, and soon soared up the charts, reaching #2 in December of 1960.