Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers perform their monster hit Why Do Fools Fall In Love live on the Frankie Laine Show in 1956. The 13 year old Lymon simply sizzles and electrifies the Nation with this performance; the prodigy already has a fully formed vocal delivery many talents never attain. Words have a different sound, and even meaning, coming from his mouth. Note the maestro-ism in his approach: rather than hitting the same nail with the selfsame hammer, he eschews the falsetto moments for a more Joe Williams-esque way forward. His stage presence is magnetic yet composed, and, oh, Lymon is a brilliant dancer, too. Other than that, well….but wait! He gives a calm, charming interview (of sorts) with host Laine. I suppose all that’s good enough. Good enough to massively influence generations of musicians, most conspicuously a certain One-Glovèd individual. To MJ‘s credit, he was quite open about this. That said, a wide swath was cut, and a vast-ish net was cast: heck, The Beach Boys have noted him as an inspiration.
Now, to give a bit of context to this groundbreaking performance. Frankie Lymon met and quickly joined a doo-wop ensemble featuring the doddering, shambling Methuselean figure Herman Santiago, checking in at a full 1 1/2 years older than Frankie L. He was 15 when all appeared on the Laine program. A tenor vocalist and the human being most likely to have actually composed Why Do Fools Fall In Love (it has been disputed for 2.3 epochs at last count…), Santiago functioned as the ensemble’s frontman until something became crystal clear: Lymon was The One. Santiago was the one (small case) scheduled to sing lead on Why during recording sessions until, for reasons which are different depending upon who(m) is asked (late arrival to session, sore throat, missing merkin collection and intensive, time-consuming search required to retrieve same…) (said collection remains at large to this very day), he was unable to do so. Lymon unhesitatingly filled the void, in the session, in our lives, and in human history. I have grown fatigued/verklempt.