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Rag Doll by The Four Seasons

Album: Rag DollReleased: 1964Charted:
1
2
  • Group member and chief songwriter Bob Gaudio wrote this. He was driving his car to the studio in New York City when he was stopped at a "three-minute light." A little girl - with ragged clothes and dirty face - ran up to the car and cleaned the windshield. As the light changed, Gaudio rummaged frantically through his pockets in an effort to find a quarter to pay the girl, who did indeed look like a Rag Doll. The smallest piece of money he could find was a five-dollar bill (sometimes Gaudio would say "ten-dollar bill" when he tells this story), so he gave her the currency. She was speechless, but he remembered her stunned look at the studio, where he composed the song.
  • When Gaudio and their producer, Bob Crewe, finished writing this, they wanted it to be the next Four Seasons single instead of one that was already scheduled for release, but the group was set to begin a tour the next day. Because their regular studio was closed on Sundays, they recorded this in the basement of a Manhattan demo studio, using a production crew with whom they had never worked before.
  • Unless you were The Beatles, it was very hard to get a #1 hit in the US in 1964. This was a major accomplishment for an American group during the British invasion. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above)
  • The B-side of this single was the original version of "Silence Is Golden," a big hit with the English group Tremeloes in 1967. (thanks, Kent - Gothenburg, Sweden)
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Comments: 26

Last line of this song, "I love you just the way you are", influenced Billy Joel and his song, "Just The Way You Are", in which the line appears repeatedly.Rick - Philadelphia
Another great #1 hit for The Four Seasons from '64. Quite a feat, considering that the British Invasion was going on for a while. I bought "Rag Doll" the single in '64. I also have it on two other hits compilation LPs from the Eighties. The original 45 rpm single has substantial "echo" especially on the drum that make it sound awesome. One of the compilation versions of "Rag Doll" do not have the "echo" and it makes the song sound flat. I think the producer was going for somewhat of a Phil Spector Sound. Anyway, the drums sound similar to The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" which charted high the year before ('63). On "Rag Doll" there's a drum break in the middle that sounds fantastic with the "echo" that chills the soul. Some of these oldies radio stations seem to play the version without the "echo" nowadays. Too bad. The "echo" version is so much better. Spector had it right when he added "echo" on most of his big hits with The Crystals, The Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, etc. Another Four Seasons hit that utilizes "echo" to the max is their "Tell It To The Rain." And "Ronnie" is another example! Great Four Seasons hits.Elmer H - Westville, Ok
A Faux Pas? I must amend, fine tune, if you will, my previous post. The moniker of groups of the Four Seasons ilk was spelled either "Doo Wap" or "Doo Wop". Both are pronounced as the latter most readily suggests. Also, I should have stated that the groups sprang from the northeast, typically of Italian heritage from New Jersey and New York. (My apologies to the folks of New Jersey.)Al - Somerset, Ky
I have to chime in on a few of the comments. The Four Seasons weren't a bubblegum group. Frankie and the boys were considered to be a solid group. They were part of the "Doo Wap" era. These groups were typically made of guys of Italian heritage from New York City. The Archies, The Royal Guardsmen, The Partridge Family, Tommy Roe, Ohio Express, The Monkees, and The 1910 Fruitgum Company are examples of "bubblegum" music. Tommy James was often (unfairly in my opinion) lumped into the category as well.Al - Somerset, Ky
After listening to this emotionally charged song for nearly 50 years, I have the opportunity next weekend to take an 8 year old little "Rag Doll" girl (from a broken home with a very poor single mom) to a Lorrie Morgan / Pam Tillis concert. This will be my payback to the original "Rag Doll" who inspired the lyrics to Bob Gaudio's greatest song of all time. I'm looking forward to this opportunity!Rick - Mesa, Az
There are other songs with the rich boy-poor girl theme, such as "Down on the boondocks" and "Poor side of town." Interestingly, Billy Joel cited this song to influence "Uptown Girl", which has a reversed storyline, poor guy-rich girl.Brandon - Seattle, Wa
Mary - That is a wonderful story and without a doubt, this is The Seasons finest compositon - your tale has truly made my day!, ThanxScott - Nyc, Ny
If you listen closely to the song at the 2:13-2:14 mark, you'll hear the tambourine in the background. While recording the song, the tambourine was set down on a chair as it wasn't needed before the clapping. Apparently whoever set it down didn't set it on the chair right and it fell off.Seanlyoung - San Elizario, Tx
Many years ago, while waiting anxiously for my cat, Nova, to have her her first litter of kittens (she was slightly overdue), I had a dream about a young kitten that was either dead or dying - a very sad dream, throughout which the song "Rag Doll" could be heard as a lament. On the very next night, Nova gave birth to five kittens...the fifth of which was born dead. When I sadly picked it up, I thought to myself, "This is my Rag Doll". Then suddenly I decided that I wasn't going to let it go that easily! I covered its muzzle with my mouth and began to blow in tiny puffs of air, then grabbed a dry washcloth and began to rub the kitten aggressively, saying, "Come on! You can do it! Breathe! Breathe!" Sure enough - after about a minute, I felt it squirm, then it squealed! I kissed it and said, "I KNEW you could do it! Welcome to the world!" While Nova dried her other kittens, I turned my little Rag Doll over to Nova's mother, Marsha, and sister, Vesta, who instinctively took over the stimulating massage with their tongues, both washing the kitten at the same time! When he - for it turned out to be a male kitten - was dry, I returned him to his mother, and all was well. Rag Doll grew up to be a very fine golden brown whorled tabby (just like his tiny mother) with the most beautiful, vivid yellow eyes. I will always love you, Rag Doll, and all the rest of your family!Mary - Niagara Falls, Ny
I saw this song 'introduced', at a WMCA "Good-Guys" show, at the Brooklyn Paramount.
I was under the impression that it was the first single to ever hit the charts at #1.
Alvin - Brooklyn, Ny
This song was not only popular with generations of teens in the 60s and 70s , but also with kids . I used to listen to this song all the time on oldies stations and even copy it on tape off the radio . It is one of the best songs Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had done during the "Bubblegum Era" of the 60s .Chomper - Franjkin County, Pa
I heard this song on the oldies station on the way to work today. I caught something I had never noticed before. After the girl is ridiculed and made for of by everyone else, the singer,in contrast, ends by singing..."I love you just the way you are". Now THAT is sweet!Mike - Louisville, Ky
For a great cover of this song check out Steeleye Span, No small feat to take on a 4 Seasons song.
In the version I heard, Bob Gaudio said the look on the girl's face in the rear view mirror-- of astonishment and gratefulness -- haunted him for two weeks, until he wrote 'Rag Doll.'
Alan - Greene, Ri
The radio stations played the bejeebers out of this tune at the time .... : )Steve Dotstar - Los Angeles, Ca
It also makes an interesting comparison with the 4 Seasons' own song "Dawn," from the same year, in which the tables are turned, and the (male) singer is the poverty-stricken one. He loves her to the point that he wants better for her than he himself can give her. These two songs are among my topmost all-time favorites, I don't care how 'bubble-gummy' they are! P.S. Don't forget that the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" (1965) was actually a remake of "My Girl Sloopy" by The Vibrations in 1964.Fred - Laurel, Md
Areosmith had a song with a similar title, in the late 80s (from the Permanent Vacation album, I believe)Michael Edwards - Kingston, Other
...one of my alltime-greatest songs. Even great in Germany. There was a german version, sung by Leo Leandros, the father of Vicky Leandros.Bernd - Niederkrüchten, Germany
This has nearly the same story line as the McCoys' "Hang On, Sloopy". They're both about a girl that a guy likes who lives in a poor area. The protagonist loves her even though she's an outcast; everyone else despises her. We need to follow this example. I'm not saying we have to chase romance in the lower class; I'm just saying we need to accept others for who they are, not push them away for being outcast.Andrew - Birmingham, United States
This song is number seven on my all-time list. The lyrics are simple but beautiful and haunting, as is the melody. It's a story of someone who's a misfit and misunderstood, and someone trying to gain the acceptance for her that she cannot find herself. Nice work. Still makes me cry.Musicmama - New York, Ny
One of the all-time greats.Pete - Ny, Ny
This song is good, yet so very sad. I nearly cried the first time I heard it.Mary C. - Chicago, Il
This song was one of best written songs of that era. Bob Gaudio wrote this song about the young girl who lived on 51st Street between 8th & 9th avenues of Hells Kitchen. I grew up on 50th street between 9th & 10th avenue and I watched her wash the windows for many years. When the song hit the charts I bought 5 copies of that single and wore 4 of them out.John N Bois - Lynbrook, Ny
this song sounds like part of a whole body of work around that time influenced by Phil Spector and the Ronettes "Be My Baby". The Beach Boys also had "Please Let Me Wonder" and "Don't Worry Baby" which sounded very much like this.Mike - Berkeley, Ca
all 4 Seasons songs were great and Frankie Vallie had a very good voiceTony - Carteret, Nj
Simple song, yet beautiful....Sharon - Yonkers, Ny
The intro sounds similar to the Ronettes' "Be My Baby", but can easily be compared to the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby."Brandon - Seattle, Wa