March 14, 1991 – Doc Pomus was born Jerome Solon Felder on June 27th, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, he was a son of Jewish immigrants. Having had polio as a boy, he walked with the help of crutches. Later, due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, Felder eventually relied on a wheelchair.
Big Joe Turner turned him onto the Blues and using the stage name “Doc Pomus“, teenager Felder began performing as a blues singer. His stage name wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular; he just thought it sounded better for a blues singer than the name Jerry Felder. Pomus stated that more often than not, he was the only Caucasian in the clubs, but that as a Jew and a polio victim, he felt a special “underdog” kinship with African Americans, while in turn the audiences both respected his courage and were impressed with his talent. Gigging at various clubs in and around New York City, Pomus often performed with the likes of Milt Jackson, Mickey Baker and King Curtis.
Pomus recorded approximately 40 sides as a singer in the ’40s and ’50s for record companies such as Chess, Apollo, Gotham and others. He found success as one of the finest white blues singers of the 1940s before becoming one of the greatest songwriters in the history of American popular music. By 1957, he had given up performing in order to devote himself full-time to songwriting and became best known as the lyricist of many rock and roll super hits.
He collaborated with pianist Mort Shuman, their songwriting efforts had Doc write the lyrics and Shuman the melody, although quite often they worked on both. They wrote the hit songs such as: “A Teenager in Love”; “Save The Last Dance For Me”; “Hushabye”; “This Magic Moment”; “Turn Me Loose”; “Sweets For My Sweet”; “Go Jimmy Go”, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”; “Little Sister”; “Suspicion”; “Surrender”; “Viva Las Vegas”; “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”. Also during the 1950s and early 1960s, Doc wrote several songs with Phil Spector: “Young Boy Blues”; “Ecstasy”; “Here Comes The Night”; “What Am I To Do?”; with Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber: “Young Blood” and “She’s Not You”, and other Brill Building-era writers.
He also wrote “Lonely Avenue”, which became a 1956 hit for Ray Charles. Doc was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the category of non-performer in 1992.
During the early 1960s, Pomus wrote several songs with Phil Spector (“Young Boy Blues”; “Ecstasy”; “What Am I To Do?”), Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber (“Young Blood” and “She’s Not You”), and other Brill Building-era writers.
In the 1970s and 1980s, in his eleventh-floor, two-room apartment at the Westover Hotel at 253 West 72nd Street, Pomus wrote songs with Dr. John, Ken Hirsch and Willy DeVille for what he said were “...those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain or not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed.” These later songs (“There Must Be A Better World”, “There Is Always One More Time”, “That World Outside”, “You Just Keep Holding On”, and “Something Beautiful Dying” in particular)—recorded by Willy DeVille, B.B. King, Irma Thomas, Marianne Faithfull, Charlie Rich, Ruth Brown, Dr. John, James Booker, and Johnny Adams—are considered by some, including writer Peter Guralnick, musician and songwriter Dr. John, and producer Joel Dorn, to be signatures of his best craft.
Together with Shuman and individually, Pomus was a key figure in the development of popular music.
He died from Lung Cancer on March 14, 1991 at age 66.
- Pomus was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- In 1991 he was the first non-African-American recipient of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award.