Earth Angel

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For the "Married... with Children" episode, see Earth Angel (Married... with Children episode).
"Earth Angel"
Single by The Penguins
A-side "Hey Señorita"
Released 1954
Recorded 1954
Genre Doo-wop
Length 2:57
Label Dootone, Mercury
Writer(s) Curtis Williams (credited);
Jesse Belvin, Gaynel Hodge (uncredited)
Producer(s) Dootsie Williams

"Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)" is an American doo-wop song, originally released by The Penguins in 1954 on the Dootone label (Dootone 348), as the B-side to "Hey Señorita."[1] The song was originally recorded as a demo at Ted Brinson's garage studio in South Los Angeles in October 1954, with producer Dootsie Williams.[2] "Earth Angel" quickly outstripped its A-side in popularity and reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart for three weeks in early 1955 and No. 8 on the pop chart.[3] Covered many times since, the love song would prove to be the only top 40 hit from the group.

The song became a major hit for The Crew-Cuts in 1955, reaching the Billboard charts on January 29, 1955. It peaked at No. 3 on the Disk Jockey chart, No. 8 on the Best Seller, and No. 8 on the Juke Box chart. The flip side, "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)," also charted.

The version of "Earth Angel" recorded by The Penguins ranked No. 152 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.

Authorship[edit]

The song was originally credited to The Penguins' baritone singer Curtis Williams.[4]

According to one of the most reputable sources,[2] it was started by Jesse Belvin and then evolved through variously titled songs recorded by Hodge and Williams. In turn they were influenced by "Dream Girl", Belvin's No. 2 R&B hit as one half of Jesse and Marvin, which contained many of the same vocal inflections used in "Earth Angel." The "Will you be mine?" hook was borrowed from the No. 9 R&B hit of the same name by the Swallows.[2] A very similar song in terms of its piano introduction and chord progression is the song "I Know" recorded in 1953 by The Hollywood Flames, a group in which Hodge and Williams were both members for a time. The chord changes, known as the 50s progression, are also similar to the Rodgers and Hart song, "Blue Moon," which was popular with many doo-wop groups. The coda of Earth Angel, with the repeatedly harmonized word "You-oo... you-oo... you-oo... you-oo," had previously been heard in The Dominoes' No. 5 R&B cover of "These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)." The authorship was adjudicated in the late 50's. "Curtis said it was his song," Dootsie Williams said many years later. "We thought it was his song, and we didn't know until we went into court. We were served with papers saying that we were infringing on the owners of the song. We had to dig up the source of the song and we found out that Curtis didn't write the song." Or at least not most of it. Clearly "Earth Angel" was a pastiche of everything that was floating around Los Angeles.[5]

Cover versions[edit]

"Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine?)"
Single by The Crew-Cuts
Released 1955
Recorded 1955
Genre Doo-wop, rhythm and blues, soul
Length 2:52
Label Mercury records
Writer(s) Curtis Williams, Jesse Belvin, Gaynel Hodge
The Crew-Cuts singles chronology
"Don't Be Angry"
(1954)
"Earth Angel"
(1955)
"Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)"
(1955)

Cultural references[edit]

  • In Back to the Future, fictional band Marvin Berry and The Starlighters (with Marty McFly, the film's main character, sitting in on guitar) played the song during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" high-school dance, along with Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". Due to the time-travelling plot of the films, this scene was "replayed" in Back to the Future Part II.
  • A scene from the Family Guy fifth season finale, "Meet the Quagmires", which directly parodied the dance from Back to the Future, also featured the song and was followed, instead of "Johnny B. Goode", by "Never Gonna Give You Up". In the episode, "Earth Angel" is sung by Luke Adams.
  • In 1986's The Karate Kid, Part II, it was playing at the dance Kumiko took Daniel to in Okinawa.
  • In the musical Jersey Boys, it was sung by the actor playing Tommy DeVito.
  • In Superman III, the song was played in the high-school reunion dance with Clark Kent and Lana Lang.
  • In the 1998 mini-series The Temptations, the actors portraying The Distants (a predecessor of The Temptations) perform an "Earth Angel" a capella.
  • In the Smallville episode "Relic", set in the 1960s, the song can be heard in a scene between Jor-El and Louise.
  • In the Stephen King novel It, in the lengthy flashback to the main characters' lives during the 1950s, Ben Hanscom hears the song in his head every time he sees his crush, Beverly.
  • In one of the final scenes of the play Paradise Park by Charles Mee, much of the cast sings "Earth Angel" in its entirety.
  • In the Erfworld summer update 015, the Transylvitians sing, among others, a song called "Erf Angel".
  • It featured in the 1991 movie of the same name, Earth Angel.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Penguins, "Hey Señorita"/"Earth Angel" Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Dawson, Jim; & Propes, Steve (1992). What was the first rock 'n’ roll record?. Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-12939-0
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 454. 
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 5 - Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll: The rock revolution gets underway. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  5. ^ "The Doo-Wop Society of Southern California: Doo-Wop Links". Electricearl.com. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Hearts of Stone" by The Charms
Billboard R&B Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
January 15, 1955 – February 5, 1955
Succeeded by
"Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace