Lonely Avenue

Album: Yes Indeed! (1956)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by Doc Pomus, who at the time was trying to make a living as a singer, but having better luck as a songwriter, composing tunes for Joe Turner, Ray Charles and other blues singers.

    "Lonely Avenue" was one of his early success stories, recorded by Charles and released as a single in 1956 (credited to "Ray Charles His Orchestra And Chorus"). Pomus soon narrowed his focus and concentrated on songwriting, teaming up with Mort Shuman to write some of the biggest hits of the next eight years, including "Save the Last Dance for Me" (The Drifters), "Little Sister" (Elvis Presley), and "A Teenager In Love" (Dion & The Belmonts).
  • The same year Elvis was wallowing on Lonely Street ("Heartbreak Hotel"), Ray Charles was taking up residence on "Lonely Avenue," a dreary place where the brokenhearted bide their time thinking about the love they've lost.

    The song's writer, Doc Pomus, was no stranger to loneliness: he suffered from polio which limited his mobility, and often found himself isolated. Heartbreak is a common theme in his work.
  • Doc Pomus would often tell a story about meeting John Lennon at a BMI dinner. According to Pomus, Lennon told him that "Lonely Avenue" was one of the first songs The Beatles rehearsed when they started the group.
  • The blues shuffle in this song is something Pomus' collaborator Dr. John referred to as "Junker Blues." in the book Tell The Truth Until They Bleed, Josh Alan Friedman quotes Pomus: "It's a certain kind of monotonous, sad, melodic and lyrical line that, because of the continuity involved, for some reason has always attracted junkies. Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum. I imagine they're shuffling along to it or something. All the junkies, Mac told me, thought I was a junkie. They said somebody who wasn't could never have written 'Lonely Avenue.' Mac couldn't believe how straight I was."
  • Popular covers of this song include a 1965 rendition by the Everly Brothers, and a 1995 release by Los Lobos.
  • Van Morrison covered this for his 2017 Roll With The Punches album, singing it as a melody with "Stormy Monday." Asked by Uncut how long it's been in his repertoire, he replied:

    "It's a song I've always liked. I recorded it live (A Night in San Francisco, 1994) but I've only recorded it once in the studio. I think (Too Long in Exile.) It works well, and it's been in and out of the set list."

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