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Doo Wop History

The early 1950’s signified the true beginning of Doo Wop music, which was a derivative of the rhythm and blues and jazz music styles.

Doo Wop first began in the inner cities, most prominently Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Doo Wop began with friends gathering on street corners, on their back porches, or just about anywhere, and making up songs.

Doo Wop got its name for its characteristically senseless lyrics. It is filled with lines like “doo-be-doo-be”, “sh-boom, sh-boom”, “do-be-do-be-do”, etc., which are most often sung by the baritone singer. Mostly these senseless lyrics were used as background while somebody sang the lead on top.

Instead of one vocalist with musicians to back them up, Doo Wop relied solely on the vocalists themselves to create all the harmonies. While later Doo Wop was sometimes done with instruments, the instrumentation was very minimal, and voiced harmonies still remained the main aspect of Doo Wop music. Harmonizing is the key in Doo Wop music.

There are several characteristics of Doo Wop music, one of which is the unique range of voices. The typical ranges of voices in a Doo Wop group are the lead singer, the falsetto/first tenor, second tenor, and a baritone singer. While falsetto was usually done as background, one group in particular, the Four Seasons, capitalized on their lead singer, Frankie Valli’s, amazing 3 and a half octave vocal range, making falsetto the lead voice. Another characteristic of Doo Wop music is that it is usually very simple and easy to sing along to, which is one of the main factors leading to its success. Many people enjoyed it because they could participate in it, and recreate it themselves.

Some of the first Doo Wop groups were the Orioles and the Ravens in the early 1950’s. By 1954, Doo Wop was the leading music style of the time. Prime examples of Doo Wop are songs such as “Blue Moon”, “Sh-boom (Life Could Be a Dream)” or “I Wonder Why”, which is often considered to be the National Anthem of the Doo Wop music style.

From the year 1954 until around 1964, Doo Wop dominated the radio waves. Doo Wop was nearly wiped off the charts by the so-called British invasion of the mid-sixties. British Groups such as the Beatles came onto the music scene. Nevertheless, several American Doo Wop/rhythm-and-blues artists still continued to record Doo Wop music, most notably the Four Seasons, who are known as the “fifties Doo Wop group of the sixties”. Neil Sedaka also continued to record a few great Doo Wop hits, such as “Next Door to an Angel” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”. The seventies musical group “Sha-na-na” is also a Doo Wop revival group.

Doo Wop is still a favorite music style among many people, and many vocal groups of the nineties covered famous Doo Wop songs. Most notably there was the musical group from Philadelphia, Boys II Men, with their version of “In the Still of the Night”. It seems as though doo wop never died and continues to exist right up until this day.

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