Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Mark Dinning--Teen Angel (1959)

     From a purely historical standpoint, I was always amused by certain religious groups in the late 80's and 90's who were claiming that rock songs promoted death. Not that the subject would be worth discussing, but this was not the first time that popular music had been preoccupied with it. In fact, it has been a part of rock and pop music since the late 50's. There have been many over the years, but for those who think this is a subject of later rockers consider the death in a car songs, "Dead Man's Curve" (1964), and  "Last Kiss" (1962). Or maybe on a motorcycle with "Leader of the Pack" (1965). In fact, if you are wanting to dive into this a bit more, there is an entire page of this stuff with dozens of examples of death in music, either by accident, by murder, or by war. So any talk of death in today's music seems a bit disingenuous. (By the way...that website is Your welcome.)
     Anyway, this leads our blog today to look at, if not the first, the first popular "death" song on the charts. Mark Dinning was one of nine born to a couple who lived in Oklahoma,  (where Mark was born) Kansas, and finally Nashville. Three of his sisters had recording success as "The Dinning Sisters" in the late 40's. Mark however fancied himself as a country singer. He was signed to a contract with MGM in 1957, but really hadn't done much until he was given a song written by his sister Jean and her husband Red Surrey.
     The song had all the makings of a hit. Danger (car stalls on train), devotion (she goes back for ring), unrequited love (she dies in his arms...never to love her again ), and of course eternal devotion (assuming she is watching over him from above). It took awhile for the song to make it to the charts as US and UK radio stations at first would not play it because of what was considered morbid material. Between some stations what would play it, and word of mouth, the song would quickly make it up the charts becoming a number 1 hit in February 1960.
    Dinning would have three more minor hits over the next couple of years, but alcoholism hindered his career greatly. He died in 1986 of a heart attack driving home from a gig in Jefferson City MO.



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