Today is the anniversary of the birth of the great pop songwriter Doc Pomus (Jerome Felder). Doc was one of the true characters of the Brill Building era of pop songwriting. Together with his partner Mort Shuman, he wrote hit songs for a long list of artists including Elvis, Ray Charles, Dion and the Belmonts, and the Drifters. The Doc Pomus site includes a good biography and list of song highlights. (See also the Songwriters Hall of Fame biography of Doc.) In the later phase of his career, after a long hiatus following the dissolution of his partnership with Shuman, he teamed up with Dr. John and others to produce a set of lesser-known gems for artists including B.B. King and Joe Cocker.
In the immediate aftermath of Pomus’s death in 1991, the late New Orleans soul singer Johnny Adams produced a stirring tribute to him in “Johnny Adams Sings Doc Pomus: The Real Me.” Adams chose to forego Pomus’s better-known songs and feature the songs from the later phase of Pomus’s career on the disc. I hadn’t heard a single one of the songs that Adams covered. Showing the depth of Doc’s catalogue, the disc is superb. Adams’s “Blinded By Love” is the most beautiful cover of a Pomus song I’ve ever heard, though there are other contenders on 1995′s out-of-print tribute “Till the Night is Gone.”
Doc had been crippled by polio as a kid. His polio played a role in the writing of “Save the Last Dance For Me.” In his New York Times review of Alex Halberstadt’s recent biography of Pomus, Alan Light explains:
[His] crowning achievement was the Drifters