March 1, 2013 – Jewel Eugene Akens was born September 12, 1933 in Houston, Texas, the seventh of nine children in a working-class family. He became interested in music early in life, singing for the church choir as a child. In 1950, Akens moved with his family from Texas to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Fremont High School. There, he met his future wife, Eddie Mae, whom he married in 1952.
Akens began his career in the late 1950s, working with Eddie Daniels and guitar legend Eddie Cochran, and later recorded singles with the Four Dots doo-wop group.
In 1965, he was singing with an ensemble called the Turnarounds when record producer Herb Newman brought them “The Birds and the Bees,” written by his teenage son. The rest of the group disliked the tune, but Akens decided to record it solo.
It became an instant hit, rising to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard pop chart in 1965.
“Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees,” went the catchy tune, which was later covered by Dean Martin and others.
Akens toured regularly since 1965 and included a tribute to his mentor, Sam Cooke, in most of his shows. He also fronted a group billing itself as The Coasters, though it featured no actual original members of the group. Akens considered his cover versions of “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris and “You Better Move On” by Arthur Alexander to be his best work. He toured with The Monkees in the late 1960s and continued in the music business until the middle of the 1970s.
“No doubt you’re already singing the chorus,” wrote the Vancouver Province in 2002 when it featured ‘the Birds and the Bees’ on a top-10 list of one-hit wonders. None of Akens’ later singles enjoyed the success of “The Birds and the Bees,” but he went on to tour with the Monkees in the 1970s and performed into his 70s.
On March 1, 2013, Akens died from complications of back surgery, aged 79.