About the song
If you’re looking for a classic summer song, you can’t go wrong with **The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk**. This pop-soul tune, released in 1964, captures the romantic mood of a seaside rendezvous, away from the heat and the crowd. But did you know that this song has a tragic backstory and a rich legacy of covers by other artists? In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and impact of this timeless hit.
The Drifters were a vocal group that had been around since the 1950s, with many changes in their lineup and style over the years. They had scored several hits with songs like “There Goes My Baby”, “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Up on the Roof”. The latter song, released in 1962, was written by the legendary duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and it introduced a new sound for the group, featuring lush strings, Latin percussion and a smooth lead vocal by Rudy Lewis.
Lewis was the main singer for the Drifters from 1960 to 1964, but his life was cut short on May 20, 1964, the day before the group was scheduled to record their next single, “Under the Boardwalk”. The cause of his death is unclear, but it was likely either a drug overdose or a heart attack. The group was devastated by the loss of their friend and colleague, but they had to carry on with the recording session. They called in Johnny Moore, who had been a member of the Drifters in 1958, to replace Lewis as the lead vocalist.
“Under the Boardwalk” was written by Arthur Resnick and Kenny Young, two songwriters who had worked with other artists like The Rascals and Herman’s Hermits. The song was inspired by a trip to Coney Island, where they saw couples hiding under the boardwalk to escape the sun and enjoy some privacy. The song references the previous hit “Up on the Roof” in its opening line: “When the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof…” The song also switches from a major to a minor key in its chorus, adding some drama to the melody.
The song was produced by Bert Berns, who had taken over from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as the Drifters’ producer. He brought in Mike Leander, an English arranger who added some orchestral touches to the track. The session musicians included Ernie Hayes on piano, Everett Barksdale, Bill Suyker and Bob Bushnell on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass, Gary Chester on drums and George Devens on percussion.
The song was released in June 1964 and became an instant hit, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Cashbox R&B chart. It was also a success in other countries, such as Canada, Australia and the UK. It was the last major hit for the Drifters, who continued to record and perform until the present day with different members.
The song has also been covered by many other artists over the years, such as The Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, The Jackson 5, Bruce Willis, Bette Midler and Tom Tom Club. Some of these versions changed some of the lyrics or added some twists to the arrangement. For example, The Rolling Stones sang “we’ll be making love” instead of “we’ll be falling in love” under the boardwalk. The song has also been featured in many movies and TV shows, such as Beaches, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, The Simpsons and Breaking Bad.
The song is considered one of the greatest songs of all time by many critics and fans. It was ranked #487 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004 and #489 in 2010. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Under the Boardwalk” is a song that has captured the hearts of millions of listeners for more than half a century. It is a song that evokes nostalgia, romance and summer fun. It is a song that has overcome tragedy and transcended genres. It is a song that will always be under our skin.