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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Song "Love is Strange" by Mickey and Sylvia

Since Baby Houseman has had sexual intercourse with Johnny Houseman, she acts boldly with him. Now when they dance, she mockingly pretends to be him and criticizes his dance skills. Pretending to be him, she addresses him affectionately as "Baby", her own name.

In the moments when she acts with her own female identity, she calls him "Lover Boy" repeatedly. This "Lover Boy" scene contrasts with the earlier Love Man scene, when she had felt inferior, shy and inhibited toward him.

Before sexual intercourse, they were man and girl. When Baby became Johnny's sexual partner, she reduced his status to hers; they became boy and girl.


I suspect that "Love is Strange" was one of the first songs chosen for the movie. The song features the appellation "Baby" -- the heroine's name. Or vice-versa, the choice of this song might have caused the heroine to be called "Baby".

The choice of "Love is Strange" led to the choice of "Love Man" -- because of the man-boy resonance. "Love Man" should not be in Dirty Dancing, because the movie takes place in 1963, whereas the song was not released to the public until 1969.


Eleanor Bergstein has told this story about the filming of the song.
Love is Strange. The script says "Baby is teaching Johnny to dance." Kenny [Ortega] and I worked out the routine in my motel room the night before. The executives came running onto the set after it was shot -- the song was not listed on the carefully calibrated chart of songs we could afford. There was no budget for it -- and worst of all -- we'd had the actors "lip synch," meaning we couldn't replace it with a cheaper song and might have to scrap the whole scene. Luckily everyone agreed after they saw it the scene was to good to scrap. You do what you have to do.

The Wikipedia article about the song "Love is Strange" includes these passages:
"Love is Strange" is a crossover hit by American rhythm and blues duet Mickey and Sylvia, which was released in late November 1956 by the Groove record label.

The song was based on a guitar riff by Jody Williams. The song was written by Bo Diddley under the name of his wife at the time, Ethel Smith, and was recorded by Bo and Buddy Holly, among others. The guitar riff was also used by Dave "Baby" Cortez in his 1962 instrumental song "Rinky Dink", also credited to Diddley.

At a concert at Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Mickey and Sylvia heard Jody Williams play a guitar riff that Williams had played on Billy Stewart's debut single "Billy's Blues". "Billy's Blues" was released as a single in June 1956 and the instrumentation combined a regular blues styling with Afro-Cuban styling. Sylvia Robinson claims that she and Mickey Baker wrote the lyrics, while Bo Diddley claims that he wrote them.

The first recorded version of "Love Is Strange" was performed by Bo Diddley, who recorded his version on May 24, 1956 with Jody Williams on lead guitar. This version was not released until its appearance on I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–1958 in 2007. Mickey and Sylvia's version was recorded several months later on October 17, 1956. A second Mickey and Sylvia studio recording, recorded some years after, featured now-legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on his first paid session gig.
The song is noted for its spoken dialogue section which goes as follows:

Yes, Mickey.

How do you call your Lover Boy?

Come here, Lover Boy!

And if he doesn't answer?

Oh, Lover Boy!

And if he still doesn't answer?

I simply say...

Baby, oh baby,
My sweet baby
You're the one.

Love is strange.
Lot of people
Take it for a game.

Once you get it,
You never want to quit.
After you've had it,
You're in an awful fix.

Many people
Don't understand.
They think loving
Is money in the hand.

Your sweet loving
Is better than a kiss.
When you leave me,
Your sweet kisses I miss.
"Love Is Strange" peaked at #1 Billboard magazine's Rhythm and Blues Singles chart and #11 on the Hot 100. .... The Wikipedia article about Mickey and Sylvia includes these passages:
Mickey was Sylvia was an American Rhythm and Blues duo, composed of Mickey Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool, who later became Sylvia Robinson. They were the first big seller for Groove Records.

Mickey was a music instructor and Sylvia one of his pupils. Baker was inspired to form the group by the success of Les Paul and Mary Ford.

They had a Top 20 hit with "Love Is Strange" in 1956, which sold over one million copies ... .

The duo eventually bought their own nightclub, established a publishing company, and formed their own record label. Although Mickey and Sylvia disbanded by the end of the 1950s, they continued to record together on an infrequent basis until 1965, when Mickey quit the music industry in the United States.

A second studio recording of "Love Is Strange" in 1962 featured now-legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, who was 18, on his first paid session gig. "Love Is Strange" would be featured (in its 1956 version) in movies like Dirty Dancing, Badlands and Casino, and would be covered many times.
Here is a video of Mickey and Sylvia performing the song.

The Wikipedia article about the song reported that Bo Didley claimed to have written the song. Here is a video of Didley performing his version in 1956. His version never was released on one of his records.


Supposedly the song "Love is Strange" was part of the Beatles' repertoire during their Hamburg years, 1960-1962, as depicted in a made-for-TV movie, broadcast in 2000, called In His Life: The John Lennon Story.

The Beatles still were playing "Love is Strange" in Hamburg in December 1962 -- only eight months before the Dirty Dancing story took place -- August 10 to September 2, 1963.

In August 1963, Baby still had never heard of the Beatles.
That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me "Baby", and it didn't occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came ...
If the Beatles really did sing "Love is Strange" in Hamburg in 1962, then Paul McCartney continued to sing it until his Wings period in 1971.

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