About The Song
Put Pomus and Shuman together with Lieber and Stoller. Add the Drifters. And you end up with a classic.
Save the Last Dance for Me by the Drifters was a joint enterprise by the two greatest songwriting teams of the early rock era: it was written by Pomus and Shuman, and produced by Lieber and Stoller. No wonder it was a massive hit in 1960 in the US and UK.
And it certainly didn’t hurt having Ben E King – later most famous for Stand By Me – singing lead. The Drifters had already used strings on their records, most famously on There Goes My Baby, the first fully-orchestrated rock hit, but not like this – the soaring, swirling violins underline the yearning in King’s gravelly, sad, yet sweeping vocals.
Allegedly Doc Pomus, who used a wheelchair, wrote it after his wedding day when he saw his wife, an actor and dancer, enjoying the party chatting and dancing with guests. “But don’t forget who’s taking you home, and in whose arms you’re gonna be …”
But there is a melancholy undertone – the girl in the song is a flirt and the singer is begging her to be faithful to him at the last. But he doesn’t sound too hopeful.
The tune, the vocals, the narrative, the arrangement – all are perfect.