Doo Wop is the name given to rock ‘n’ roll vocal group music that began to emerge in the early 1950s. At the time it was called rhythm and blues and then finally rock ‘n’ roll. The genre got its name because the groups added vocalizations like doo-wop, dits, shoo bop, and other sounds which are akin to the scat singing in jazz where the vocalists sing wordless syllables to set the beat
A good example of early doo wop is The Crow’s “Gee” recorded in 1953. It begins “Dit, dita, dit, dita, dit, dita, dita, dita” and then the lead singer launches into the lyric proclaiming his love for a girl named Gee. The critics of rock ‘n’ roll had a field day with these songs. TV variety show host Steve Allen got a lot of laughs when he would read out the lyrics of rock ‘n’ roll songs including all the dits and doo-wops. The teenagers of the day were not laughing but dancing and grooving with this new kind of music that liberated them from the crooners their parents were listening to.
I grew up listening to early rock ‘n’ roll and I loved it. I even went to Alan Freed’s rock ‘n’ roll shows in New York and saw many of the classic doo wop groups in action. So, it rubbed off on me and forty five years later, when I began to write and record songs, I wanted to try a doo wop styled song. As a monk I was not going to write about a girl named Gee but instead chose to write about a guru who dispelled the darkness from my mind.
My song “Open My Heart” opens with the dits, and then my lyric:
You’re the fountain of my life,
The source of my might.
You sweep away the darkness
With a burst of light.
Open my heart wide
Take me by your side.
I liked the song and when I got a friendly audience at the Divine Moon Festival in England in 2006 I tried it out as a sing-along, with the audience singing the “dits.” Later when I was working on the “Love is the Best” album I performed the song for Ryan Sam, a Danish rock artist and producer, and he made the backing tracks for a more polished version of the song. When Ryan played the finished song for his American wife she was astonished that a Danish guy who had only recently come to US knew how to produce this kind of music. “Dada taught me,” Ryan explained.
I don’t sing this song often but one performance of the song made a big impact on one of my listeners. Sometime in 2009 I performed at an open mic evening at a venue in New York’s Chinatown. The clientele were mostly Asian-American young people. I did a few of my songs and then introduced “Open My Heart” and had the audience singing along the doo-wop parts of the song. It seemed to go pretty well and I was satisfied with the experience.
I said goodbye to everyone at the club and walked out into the street. Following me was the emcee of the evening and he caught me and confided “When I first saw you come into the club, I was scared shitless! But when you started singing doo-wop music then I knew you were a good guy.”
So, when you want to break the ice, loosen up and sing some doo wop.