At age 13 Lymon was a backup singer for The Premiers. The group was rehearsing in the hallway of an apartment building when one of the residents gave them a collection of love letters written in verse form by his girlfriend. They read them all, chose "Why Do Birds Sing So Gay," and put it to music. Richard Barrett, the lead singer of another New York City group (The Valentines), brought The Premiers to the attention of George Goldner, owner of Rama and Gee Records. At the audition, Lymon filled in at lead for Herman Santiago, who was sick at the time. Goldner liked the song but not all of its lyrics, and the group was signed to Gee Records. The reworked song became "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." The Premiers became the Teenagers when they went into the studio to record the song with Jimmy Wright and his band (Wright suggested the new name).
The single was released in January 1956 to avoid the Christmas rush. The group was not notified that it was released - they found out when a group member heard a classmate singing it at school.
The Teenagers hit #6 with "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" despite covers by Gale Storm (#9) and the Diamonds (#12). Diana Ross took it back into the Top 10 a quarter century later (#7 in 1981) as her first single record on RCA.
Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers led the way for young black singing groups like The Jackson 5. A huge talent thrust into the spotlight at a very young age, Lymon was a lot like Michael Jackson. Lyman died of a heroin overdose when he was 26.
Royalties for this song have been in constant dispute. Record companies often claimed a share of the copyright on songs written by young artists who didn't know enough about the law or the music industry to realize they were being cheated. When this was released in 1956, record company owner George Goldner told the group that only two names could be listed on the copyright, and credited himself and Lyman as songwriters. In 1964, Goldner signed over the rights to Morris Levy, who had been claiming copyrights for years, collecting royalties on songs he didn't write by Chuck Berry, Tommy James and many others.
This song has endured as a classic, and when Ross recorded her version in 1981, it generated even more royalty money. In 1987, Jimmy Merchant and Herman Santiago, two members of The Teenagers who said they helped write the song sued Levy, claiming he stole the songwriting credit and threatened to kill them if they tried to get it (Morris was linked to organized crime). A judge eventually ruled that while Morris did not write the song, he was entitled to the royalties because Merchant and Santiago waited too long to file their lawsuit. Also in question is Lymon's share of the royalties. He was married three times but never divorced, and all three of his wives have claimed ownership of his share.
The Beach Boys recorded this in 1964, with Darlene Love
helping with their arrangement. Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said in Q
Magazine's 1001 Best Songs selected this as one of his five favorite ever songs, commenting: "I first heard this in a cafe in Hawthorne (California) when I was a kid. My dad played the song on one of those little jukeboxes. I went, 'What is this fantastic sound?' I like the sax break, plus all the singers. It got inside my head."
In 1998, a movie about Frankie Lymon was released called Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Lymon's wives were played by Halle Berry, Vivica Fox and Lela Rochon.
Lymon was the youngest artist to have a UK #1 hit until 9-year-old Little Jimmy Osmond topped the UK charts in 1972 with "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool."