Save the Last Dance for Me

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"Save the Last Dance for Me"
Save the Last Dance for Me - The Drifters.jpg
Single by The Drifters
from the album Save the Last Dance for Me
B-side"Nobody But Me"
ReleasedAugust 1960
Songwriter(s)Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman
Producer(s)Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller
The Drifters singles chronology
"Lonely Winds"
"Save the Last Dance for Me"
"I Count the Tears"

"Save the Last Dance for Me" is a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by the Drifters, with Ben E. King on lead vocals.

Drifters' version[edit]

In a 1990 interview,[1] songwriter Doc Pomus tells the story of the song being recorded by the Drifters and originally designated as the B-side of the record. He credits Dick Clark with turning the record over and realizing "Save The Last Dance" was the stronger song. The Drifters' version of the song, released a few months after Ben E. King left the group, would go on to spend three non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. pop chart, in addition to logging one week atop the U.S. R&B chart.[2] In the UK The Drifters' recording reached No. 2 in December 1960.[3] This single was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two noted American music producers who at the time had an apprentice relationship with a then-unknown Phil Spector. Although he was working with Leiber and Stoller at the time, it is unknown whether Spector assisted with the production of this record; however, many Spector fans have noticed similarities between this record and other music he would eventually produce on his own.[4] Damita Jo had a hit with one of the answer songs of this era called "I'll Save The Last Dance For You". On September 9, 1965, the group performed the song live at the Cinnamon Cinder with Charlie Thomas lip-syncing the lyrics of Ben E. King vocals, along with fellow Drifters Johnny Moore and Eugene Pearson on backing vocals.

In the song, the narrator tells his lover she is free to mingle and socialize throughout the evening, but to make sure to save him the dance at the end of the night.[5] During an interview on Elvis Costello's show Spectacle, Lou Reed, who worked with Pomus, said the song was written on the day of Pomus' wedding while the wheelchair-bound groom watched his bride dancing with their guests. Pomus had polio and at times used crutches to get around.[6] His wife, Willi Burke, however, was a Broadway actress and dancer. The song gives his perspective of telling his wife to have fun dancing, but reminds her who will be taking her home and "in whose arms you're gonna be."[7]

Musicians on the Drifters' recording were: Bucky Pizzarelli, Allen Hanlon (guitar), Lloyd Trotman (bass) and Gary Chester (drums).

Chart history[edit]

Dalida version[edit]

"Garde-moi la dernière danse"
Single by Dalida
from the album Garde-moi la dernière danse
Songwriter(s)Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman
Dalida singles chronology
"Joyeux Noël"
"Garde-moi la dernière danse"
"Canta in Italiano"

Garde-moi la dernière danse is the eighth album by European pop star Dalida. The title song of the album, a French cover of the American hit "Save the Last Dance for Me", was released as a single. The background orchestra music was led by French composer and orchestra leader Raymond Lefèvre.

Emmylou Harris version[edit]

Emmylou Harris covered the song in a country/bluegrass style in 1979, including it on her Blue Kentucky Girl album. Also released as a single, her version reached the top ten on the U.S. country singles chart in mid-1979.

Dolly Parton version[edit]

"Save the Last Dance for Me"
Single by Dolly Parton
from the album The Great Pretender
B-side"Elusive Butterfly"
ReleasedNovember 28, 1983
RecordedNovember 1983
Songwriter(s)Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman
Producer(s)Val Garay
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Islands in the Stream"
"Save the Last Dance for Me"

In 1983, Dolly Parton recorded "Save the Last Dance for Me," releasing it as a single in late November; the song subsequently appeared on Parton's album of 1950s and 60s covers The Great Pretender, released in January 1984. Reaching the top ten on the country singles chart in late February, the single also crossed over, reaching No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1983–84) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 45
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 12
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 2

The DeFranco Family version[edit]

The DeFranco Family (featuring Tony DeFranco) released Save The Last Dance For Me in 1974 as a single and the title track of their 2nd album (20th Century Records); the single peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 on Canada's RPM 100 chart. The B-side of the single was "Because We Both Are Young," written by Tom Bahler and Harry Shannon. Initially, Tony was reluctant about recording a remake; however, producer Walt Meskell convinced Tony that the song would be a hit. The single sold just shy of 1 million copies, proving that Walt was on the right track.

Michael Bublé version[edit]

"Save the Last Dance for Me"
Buble Save The Last.jpg
Single by Michael Bublé
from the album It's Time
ReleasedApril 4, 2006
Label143, Reprise
Songwriter(s)Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman
Michael Bublé singles chronology
"Save the Last Dance for Me"
"Just in Time"

"Save The Last Dance For Me" was later covered by Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, and released as the third and final single from his second major-label studio album, It's Time. The song was heavily remixed for its release as a single.


For its release as a single, the song was heavily remixed, with mixes from producers including Ralphi Rosario and Eddie Baez. All of the chart positions for the single are for each of the remixed versions of the song respectively. The single first peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart in September 2005.[15] After Bublé performed the album version of the song during the closing credits of the film The Wedding Date,[16] this version was released to radio, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, as well as reaching No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100.[17] The music video for the track was once again directed by Noble Jones, who directed the videos for both of the album's previous singles – Home and Feeling Good. The music video was choreographed by Raymondo Chan, a Salsa Latin dance coach and performer. It was shot in Vancouver, Canada.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Album Version) – 3:38
  2. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Starcity Remix) – 3:20
  3. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Live Version – Video) – 4:14
  4. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Music Video) – 3:42
  • Digital download[19]
  1. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Album Version) – 3:38
  2. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Ralphi's Anthomic Vocal) – 9:36
  3. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Eddie's Anthem Mix) – 9:53
  4. "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Ralphi's Hydrolic Dub) – 8:29

Chart history[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2006) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 99
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 5

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2006) Rank
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[20] 7

Other versions[edit]

  • Towa Carson in 1960 recorded a Swedish version, Sista Dansen (The Last Dance), which became one of her biggest hits, staying five months in the Swedish Top 20 and peaking at number four in April 1961.
  • Jay and the Americans released a cover version of the song on their 1962 album, She Cried.
  • In December 1960 Polydor Records published a German cover version featuring singer Ivo Robić. Kurt Schwabach's German lyrics are no English translation, but he titled it "Mit 17 fängt das Leben erst an" ('At 17 life is only just beginning') to deal with a young girl's first encounters with 'that thing called love'.
  • Also in 1960, Dion recorded the song for inclusion on his album Alone With Dion.[21]
  • The String-A-Longs recorded a version at Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM (where Buddy Holly started!), in 1960–61, released in the Philippines under Tiara Records (Tiara 001).[22]
  • Buck Owens released a cover version in 1962 that peaked at No. 11 on the US country charts and appeared on his albumTogether Again.[23]
  • Paul Anka recorded the song for his 1963 album Songs I Wish I'd Written.[24]
  • The Swinging Blue Jeans recorded a version in 1964 for their first UK studio album Blue Jeans a'Swinging, HMV 1802.
  • Ike & Tina Turner released a cover version of the song on their 1966 album River Deep – Mountain High.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis during his later years recorded a version of the song with Sun Records on June 12, 1961, in Memphis, Tennessee at Sam Phillips' studio.[25]
  • The Swedish group the Spotnicks recorded an instrumental version of the song (they called "Valentina") for their 1964 album The Spotnicks in Spain.[26]
  • The Righteous Brothers recorded their version of the song for their 1966 album Go Ahead And Cry.
  • Cliff Richard included the song in his 1967 album Don't Stop Me Now![27]
  • Billy Joe Royal released a version of the song on his 1967 album, Billy Joe Royal Featuring Hush.[28]
  • In 1968 the British band The Rokes, mostly active in Italy, recorded an Italian cover of the song called " Lascia l'ultimo ballo per me".
  • During the Get Back/Let It Be sessions of January 1969, the Beatles played a short, impromptu variation of this song in the original lineup of songs to possibly be included on the developing album that would become Let It Be, though it was later scrapped. Nevertheless, many bootleg releases include their version, such as the 2-LP set "The Black Album" (not to be confused with their official released The White Album previously issued).
  • In 1969, British arranger and band leader Johnny Arthey arranged and conducted for John Rowles to record his 7" vinyl release on the MCA-UK label the following year.[29]
  • Harry Nilsson covered the song, in a rather dark fashion, on his 1974 album, Pussy Cats, which was produced by his friend and drinking buddy John Lennon.
  • The Walkmen did a cover of Pussy Cats which included "Save the Last Dance for Me". Also in 1974, Canadians the DeFranco Family reached No. 18 on the Billboard pop chart with their version of "Save the Last Dance for Me", with lead vocals sung by 14-year-young Tony DeFranco.[16]
  • In 1976, Ramona Wulf, a singer with German disco group Silver Convention, recorded a disco version of the song.
  • Patti LaBelle included a disco-flavored cover of the song as the lead track on her 1978 album, Tasty.
  • In 1977, John Davidson reached No. 22 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart[30] and No. 44 on the Canadian AC chart.[31]
  • In 1978, country music singer-songwriter Ron Shaw recorded the song on Pacific Challenger Records;[32] this version reached the Top 40 on the Billboard country music chart.
  • In 1979, Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina recorded a disco version of the song in Italian entitled "Lascia L'Utlimo Ballo Per Me", on her eponymous album.
  • In 1979, Marcia Hines covered the song for her album, Ooh Child.
  • The Forgotten Rebels recorded the song on their 1981 album This Ain't Hollywood.[33]
  • In 1982 Mud featured the song in their album Mud Featuring Les Gray.[34]
  • In 1983 Herbie Armstrong included a haunting version of the song on his solo album 'Back against the wall'.[35] Mort Shuman himself endorsed it, certain it would be a hit. Sadly the distribution company went bust and only 800 copies of the CD were ever distributed.
  • The song was translated into French by André Salvet and François Llenas and recorded by, among others, Petula Clark, Dalida, and Mort Shuman himself.[36]
  • Ben E. King 1987 Save the Last Dance for Me
  • Geno Delafose recorded the song as a zydeco version on the CD La Chanson Perdu[37] in 1998 on Rounder Records.
  • Bruce Willis released a version which appears on his 1989 album, If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.[38]
  • Canadians produced An Intimate Evening with Anne Murray, a live album Anne Murray recorded on December 18, 1986, which features the song. She performed it again for release on MTV in 1997.
  • In 2000, Japanese band The Neatbeats recorded the song for their album Everybody Need![39]
  • On his 2000 album I Give My Heart to You, O.C. Smith recorded a version of the song.[40]
  • Norwegian singer Heidi Hauge, on her 2002 album Country Dance, recorded a cover of the song. A videoclip was published by YouTube in 2010[41]
  • Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell recorded it on his 2003 album, Daniel in Blue Jeans.[42]
  • In the 2000s, UK musician and ex-band member of Fox, Herbie Armstrong, recorded a slower, minor version of the song and released it as a single from his album, Last Dance.[43]
  • In 2003, the Troggs recorded their version of this song on an album with re-recorded songs, called "Wild Thing".[44]
  • In 2004, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, and recorded the song for their album Nancy & Lee 3.[45]
  • In 2004, Harry Connick Jr. recorded the song for his album Only You.
  • In 2009, Swedish artist Jessica Andersson recorded a cover version of Damita Jo's on her 2009 album, Wake Up
  • In 2010, Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas performed a live acoustic version at the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
  • In 2011, Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander covered the song on his country album, Countryside Blvd.[46]
  • In 2012, American composer and producer Kramer covered the song and included it on his sixth album The Brill Building.[47]
  • In 2014, Leonard Cohen included a cover version of the song on his Live in Dublin album. He also closed his last concert, in Auckland on December 21, 2013, with the song

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1960, American female R&B singer Damita Jo recorded an "answer record" to "Save the Last Dance for Me". Her song, entitled "I'll Save the Last Dance for You", built around the original song's melody and thus credited to Shuman and Pomus, peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in December 1960.[48]
  • The original version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" as performed by the Drifters is featured in the first-season finale of the North American version of Queer as Folk. In a memorable scene from this episode, Brian Kinney dances with Justin Taylor to this song at Justin's senior prom, which is immediately followed by Justin being brutally attacked by a homophobic classmate in the parking garage outside the prom. The song also signifies a turning point in their relationship, as Brian was previously unwilling to admit that Justin was more than a one-night stand.
  • The song ranked No. 182 on Rolling Stones The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, making it the second-highest charting Drifters song on the list, behind "Up on the Roof".
  • A juke box musical entitled Save The Last Dance For Me, and featuring the song, is up and running, touring throughout the UK. Produced by Bill Kenwright, it is a spin-off to the popular Dreamboats and Petticoats musical, which some describe as "Dreamboats meets Dirty Dancing".
  • DTV set the Drifters' version to Moth and the Flame.
  • The Drifters' version is used in the episode "Rifting Apart" (Season 3, Episode 8) of the Starz television show "Ash Vs. Evil Dead".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DOC POMUS "SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME" and how it almost wasn't..." YouTube. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  3. ^ a b "hello mary lou/travelin' man | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company".
  4. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, 5th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  5. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 20 – Forty Miles of Bad Road: Early '60s potpourri" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. Track 2.
  6. ^ "Save the Last Dance for Me – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online". July 6, 2007.
  7. ^ "Songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman | Elvis Articles".
  8. ^ "Flavour of New Zealand – search lever".
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  10. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 11/19/60".
  11. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1960/Top 100 Songs of 1960".
  12. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles – 1960".
  13. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1960". Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "Dance Songs: Top Dance Music Chart". Billboard.
  16. ^ a b "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard.
  17. ^ "Adult Contemporary Music Chart". Billboard.
  18. ^ "Michael Buble Save The Last Dance For Me RARE promo CD DVD 05". eBay. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  19. ^ "Save The Last Dance For Me EP: Michael Bublé: MP3-Downloads". January 1, 1970.
  20. ^ "Adult Contemporary Songs – Year-End 2006". Billboard. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  21. ^ "Dion (3) – Alone With Dion". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  22. ^ "NORMAN PETTY STUDIOS Productions – Discography (S)". Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  23. ^ Buck Owens, "Save the Last Dance for Me" Chart Position Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  24. ^ "Paul Anka – Songs I Wish I'd Written". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  25. ^ "Jerry Lee Lewis – Save The Last Dance For Me". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  26. ^ "The Spotnicks – The Spotnicks In Spain". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  27. ^ "Cliff Richard – Don't Stop Me Now!". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  28. ^ "Billy Joe Royal – Billy Joe Royal Featuring "Hush"". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  29. ^ "John Rowles– Save The Last Dance For Me / What's On Your Mind". Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  30. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 65.
  31. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". March 12, 1977. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  32. ^ "Ron Shaw – Save The Last Dance For Me". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  33. ^ "Album: Forgotten Rebels – This Ain't Hollywood (1982)". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  34. ^ "Mud Featuring Les Gray – Mud". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  35. ^ "Herbie Armstrong – Back Against The Wall". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  36. ^ "Home – Lyrics".
  37. ^ "La Chanson Perdue – Geno Delafose | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  38. ^ "Bruce Willis – If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  39. ^ "the NEATBEATS Official Website". July 27, 2000. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  40. ^ "I Give My Heart to You – O.C. Smith | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  41. ^ "Save the Last Dance for Me – Heidi Hauge". YouTube. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  42. ^ "Daniel in Blue Jeans – Daniel O'Donnell | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  43. ^ [1]
  44. ^ [2] Archived December 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ "Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Nancy & Lee 3". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  46. ^ "Countryside Blvd. – Robin Zander | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  47. ^ "Kramer: The Brill Building > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  48. ^ "Damita Jo Hot 100 chart data".

External links[edit]