RIP Dells’ Marvin Junior – The multi-generational “voice” of Black culture

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MARVIN JUNIOR 1936-2013

 

My very first encounter with the Dells was in 1969. I had just heard the song “Oh What a Night” on the radio in New York City.

I was listening to the radio in my bedroom and of course I thought the song was off the hook. As the song was just about to end, my father walked in to the room and said:

Mr. Davis: What’s That you are listening to?
Young Earthjuice: It’s a brand new song.
Mr. Davis: That song isn’t new.
Young Earthjuice: Frankie Crocker just said that; “it’s the brand new release from the Dells.”
Mr. Davis: It may be a new release, but that song is old as dirt. It first came out when I was a teenager and the guy singing it has to be at least my age, if not older.

Sure enough, as I would later learn, via continuous listening to Frankie Crocker, the Dells had indeed originally released the song “Oh What a Night,” back in 1955. Frankie said that it had been a hit song and that the Dells were one of the few “doo wop” groups that were still around & kickin. He also said that the Dells lead singer Marvin Junior had co-written and sang on the original 1955 version of the song.

Years later when I met Marvin Junior, I told him that story. He told me that he has heard a variation of that same story many times from many different people. He said that every time he hears it that it made him smile because it means that the Dells are truly “multi-generational.”

And that they are.

Marvin Junior might just be the single most influential “voice” in the history of Black music. His influence on male singers like Teddy Pendergrass, David Ruffin, Cee Lo Green and others is quite obvious. Other influences are just as powerful, but perhaps not quite so obvious.

Take for example of friend Chuck D, front man of the legendary rap group Public Enemy.

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