Bobby Freeman, Wrote And Sang “Do You Wanna Dance”

“Do You Wanna Dance” on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958)–Watch on YouTube*

I read Bobby Freeman’s obituary right after this year’s Grammy Awards. It made me wonder: would any of the songs that were up for 2017’s “Song of the Year” endure in the way that Freeman’s 1958 classic “Do You Want To Dance?” has?

Freeman’s song, written and recorded while he was still a teenager, would go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, John Lennon, The Ramones and Bette Midler. You can accuse me of Baby Boomer fuddy-duddyism, but it’s hard to imagine Adele, Beyoncé and all the pop machine behind them producing a tune still worth humming 60 years from now.

“Do You Want To Dance” didn’t win at the 1st Annual Grammy Award Show in 1959, the year it would have been eligible. It wasn’t even nominated. The honor that year went to “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno.

Freeman (June 13, 1940-January 23, 2017) is considered San Francisco’s first rock-and-roll star. His 1964 hit “C’Mon and Swim” was written and produced by then-19-year-old Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone).

*This rather strange video begins with host Dick Clark talking to actor Tony Randall, apparently on leave from the Navy.

“Do You Wanna Dance” Original & Covers–Listen on Spotify

 

Lennie Baker, Singer of “Blue Moon,” Other Sha Na Na Hits



“Blue Moon” at Winterland, 1973

Lennie Baker was both a singer and saxophone player for Sha Na Na, the  1950s retro rock-and-roll band. He joined soon after their career-launching performance at Woodstock (only their eighth performance as a band), where they went on stage at sunrise on the last day of the festival, just before Jimi Hendrix.

“Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling Ding-Dong” on Sha Na Na TV Show

Baker (April 18, 1946-February 24, 2016) was on board during their long touring career and appeared with Sha Na Na in the movie production of Grease. In the movie, he sings “Blue Moon” as part of the fictional Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. You can also see him in the documentary Festival Express, which chronicles the cross- Canada train ride of musical festival performers, including Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito Brothers–and Sha Na Na.

 

“Mr. Bass Man” 

Baker participated in the group’s eponymous TV show, a kind of doo wop Hee Haw, that ran from 1978-1981. He retired from the group in 2000. Before Sha Na Na, Baker played sax for another 1950s-themed group, Danny and the Juniors.