♫ Save The Last Dance For Me ♫

I was rolling smokes a while ago, doing a mental checklist.  Comments answered?  Check.  Jolly Monday scheduled?  Check.  Email cleaned up?  Check.  Music post?  Oops … I knew I had forgotten something.  So, the song I was whistling at that moment was Tom Jones’ I Who Have Nothing, which is a great song, but … I already played that one last September, and I did promise new content after last night’s redux.  The other song that I found myself whistling, then humming, was this one … Save the Last Dance for Me.  I knew I had done songs by The Drifters before, but lo and behold!  I haven’t played this one yet!

This song tells the story of a couple at a dance. He tells his wife that she is free to dance and socialize with other men throughout the evening, but she should not forget that she is going home with him. Inspiration for the song came from a very personal experience.

The songwriting team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote this song. In Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus, Alex Halberstadt explains that one night, Pomus found a wedding invitation in a hatbox, and back came his most vivid memory from his wedding: watching his brother Raoul dance with his new wife while Doc, who had polio, sat in his wheelchair. Inspired, he stayed up all night writing the words to this song on the back of the invitation. Shuman had played him a soaring Latin melody that afternoon, and he wanted the words to sound like a poem translated into English – something along the lines of Pablo Neruda. By the second verse, a hint of jealousy and vulnerability creeps in with the lyrics, “If he asks if you’re all alone, can he take you home, you must tell him no.” Pomus ended his night of songwriting by writing down the words that would become the title: Save The Last Dance For Me.

Pomus and Shuman were writers for Atlantic Records, where they worked with the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who produced this song. Leiber and Stoller were great with Latin rhythms, which is what they used here and what Pomus had in mind with the flow of the lyrics. Leiber and Stoller were using The Coasters to record most of their songs at the time, and had asked Pomus and Shuman to write songs for The Drifters.

The Drifters lead singer for this song was Ben E. King, who a few months later started scoring solo hits with Spanish Harlem and Stand By Me. When they were recording the song Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun told King how the song was inspired by Pomus watching his wife dance with another man at his wedding, and King drew on that story to wring out the emotion in his vocals.

In a rare bonehead move by Atlantic Records honchos Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, they relegated this song to the B-side of another Pomus/Shuman composition called Nobody But Me.  It was Dick Clark who broke the song when he flipped the single and played Save The Last Dance for Me on his show American Bandstand. The song gave The Drifters their only #1 hit.

Emmylou Harris in 1979 and Dolly Parton in 1984 have had Country hits with this song, and Michael Bublé reached #99 in the US with his version.  But, with apologies to Harris, Parton and Bublé , I still prefer the Drifters.

Save The Last Dance For Me
The Drifters

You can dance every dance with the guy
Who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight
You can smile every smile for the man
Who held your hand ‘neath the pale moonlight

But don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’, save the last dance for me, hmm

Oh, I know that the music’s fine (oh, I know, yes I know)
Like sparkling wine go and have your fun
Laugh and sing but while we’re apart
Don’t give your heart to anyone

But don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’, save the last dance for me, hmm

Baby, don’t you know I love you so?
Can’t you feel it when we touch?
I will never, never let you go
I love you, oh, so much

You can dance, go and carry on
‘Till the night is gone and it’s time to go
If he asks, if you’re all alone
Can he take you home, you must tell him, no

‘Cause don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arm’s you’re gonna be
So darlin’, save the last dance for me

‘Cause don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arm’s you’re gonna be
So darlin’, save the last dance for me, hmm

Save the last dance for me, hmm, hmm
Save the last dance for me, hmmm
Save

Songwriters: Doc Pomus / Mort Shuman
Save The Last Dance For Me – Re-Recording (by Original Artist) lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Spirit Music Group

20 thoughts on “♫ Save The Last Dance For Me ♫

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