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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, June 27, 2010


The terrific Doc Pomus would have been 85 today. Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Pomus, Doc [1925 -1991]
Jerome Solon Felder was born in Brooklyn on June 27, 1925, and in childhood was struck down by polio, learnt the saxophone and was turned on to the blues by hearing Joe Turner on the radio. He performed, standing on crutches, as a white blues singer from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s before concentrating on songwriting. He wrote the words and, with pianist Mort Shuman writing the music, they became, from 1958-1965, one of the greatest of all the songwriting partnerships of the era. If you thought ‘Leiber & Stoller’ first, you certainly thought ‘Pomus & Shuman’ second, and that went for ELVIS songs and songs in general.

By the time of this partnership, Pomus had already written ‘Boogie Woogie Country Girl’ for Joe Turner, RAY CHARLES’ smash hit ‘Lonely Avenue’ and the Coasters’ ‘Youngblood’ with Leiber & Stoller (a song revived to gothic effect by LEON RUSSELL and performed by him at the Concert for Bangla Desh in 1971). With Shuman, Pomus wrote ‘A Mess of Blues’, ‘Surrender’, ‘Little Sister’, ‘His Latest Flame’, ‘Viva Las Vegas’, ‘Suspicion’ and others for Presley, and for others ‘Teenager In Love’ (Dion & the Belmonts), ‘I’m A Tiger’ (Fabian), ‘Go, Jimmy, Go’ (Jimmy Clanton), and for the Drifters ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, ‘I Count the Tears’ and the much-covered ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’.

The two of them visited England in 1964; Shuman started composing with other people, and Pomus, back home in 1965, had a serious fall that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his days. There’s something especially poignant about a man crippled by polio writing ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’.

He stopped writing altogether, and spent ten years as a professional gambler until squeezed out by the mob, who sent two masked gunmen round to his 72nd Street apartment. He returned to songwriting, collaborating mostly with Dr. John on songs for B.B. King and many others.

At Pomus’ posthumous induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, the distinguished blues folklorist Dick Waterman said this of him: ‘He never felt that he was creating High Art. It was his gig. He got up in the morning and went to work writing songs just as if he was delivering mail, driving a cab or practicing medicine.’

His son, Geoffrey J. Felder, e-mailed a Dylan discussion group in 1997 to say that he remembered ‘the time Dylan came over to my dad’s apartment to discuss life, songwriting, etc. My dad was very impressed with Dylan and always thought highly of him.’

It was mutual, and for the 1995 tribute album Till the Night Is Gone, a compilation of specially-made recordings by Roseanne Cash, John Hiatt, LOU REED and others of 14 Doc Pomus songs, mostly co-written with Shuman, Bob Dylan went right back to the start of the story and recorded a version of ‘Boogie Woogie Country Girl’, in Memphis in May 1994, backed by his touring band of the day. It wasn’t, of course, a patch on the great Joe Turner version, but it was meant well.

Doc Pomus died of lung cancer in New York on March 14, 1991.

[Bob Dylan: ‘Boogie Woogie Country Girl’, 9-11 May, 1994, Till the Night Is Gone: A Tribute to Doc Pomus, Rhino R2 71878, US, 1995. Geoffrey J. Felder e-mail, 22 May 1997, quoted from, online 13 Oct 2005.]


Anonymous Andy Schwartz said...

"The fighters always have a shot at turning a corner, and if you holler loud enough, sometimes somebody hears you. And truth and love always separate the greats from the neverwases and the neverwillbes." -- Doc Pomus, from his liner notes to RETURN TO MAGENTA by Mink DeVille (1978)

"If the music business had a heart, it would be Doc Pomus." -- attributed to Jerry Wexler (date unknown)

9:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just watched Lou Reed's extraordinary performance of 'Foot of Pride' on You Tube:

How well he cut through all the bullshit and phoniness that surrounded the Bobfest.


4:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pomus Songs is the home of Doc Pomus' song catalog. Visit Pomus Songs and browse this great catalog.

8:45 pm  

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