Composers: Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman
Inspired by The Drifers version.
"Save the Last Dance for Me" is the title of a popular song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by The Drifters, with Ben E. King on lead vocals.
The Drifters' version
In a 1990 interview  songwriter Doc Pomus tells the story of the song being recorded by the Drifters and originally designated as the B-side of the record. He credits Dick Clark with turning the record over and realizing Save The Last Dance was the stronger song. The Drifters' version of the song would go on to spend three non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the U.S. pop chart, in addition to logging one week atop the U.S. R&B chart. In the UK, the Drifters' recording reached #2 in December 1960. This single was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two noted American music producers who at the time had an apprentice relationship with a then-unknown Phil Spector. Although he was working with Leiber and Stoller at the time, it is unknown whether Spector assisted with the production of this record; however, many Spector fans have noticed similarities between this record and other music he would eventually produce on his own. Damita Jo had a hit with one of the answer songs of this era called "I'll Save The Last Dance For You".
In the song, the narrator tells his lover she is free to mingle and socialize throughout the evening, but to make sure to save him the dance at the end of the night. During an interview on Elvis Costello's show Spectacle, Lou Reed, who worked with Pomus, said the song was written on the day of Pomus' wedding while the wheelchair-bound groom watched his bride dancing with their guests. Pomus had polio and at times used crutches to get around. His wife, Willi Burke, however, was a Broadway actress and dancer. The song gives his perspective of telling his wife to have fun dancing, but reminds her who will be taking her home and "in whose arms you're gonna be." Musicians on the Drifters' recording were: Bucky Pizzarelli, Allen Hanlon (guitar), Lloyd Trotman (bass), and Gary Chester (drums).
Emmylou Harris version
Emmylou Harris covered the song in a country/bluegrass style in 1979, including it on her Blue Kentucky Girl album. Also released as a single, her version reached the top-ten on the U.S. country singles chart in mid-1979.
Dolly Parton version
In late 1983, Dolly Parton recorded "Save the Last Dance for Me", releasing it as a single in late December; the song subsequently appeared on Parton's album of 1950s and 60s covers The Great Pretender, released in January 1984. Reaching the top ten on the country singles chart in late February, the single also crossed over, reaching #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
Michael Bublé version
"Save The Last Dance For Me" was later covered by Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, and released as the third and final single from his second major-label studio album, It's Time. The song was heavily remixed for its release as a single.
For its release as a single, the song was heavily remixed, with mixes from producers including Ralphi Rosario and Eddie Baez. All of the chart positions for the single are for each of the remixed versions of the song respectively. The single first peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart in September 2005. After Bublé performed the album version of the song during the closing credits of the film The Wedding Date, this version was released to radio, peaking at #5 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, as well as reaching #99 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video for the track was once again directed by Noble Jones, who directed the videos for both of the album's previous singles – Home and Feeling Good. The music video was choreographed by Raymondo Chan, a Salsa Latin dance coach and performer. It was shot in Vancouver, Canada.
• CD / DVD single
1 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Album Version) – 3:38
2 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Starcity Remix) – 3:20
3 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Live Version – Video) – 4:14
4 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Music Video) – 3:42
• Digital download
1 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Album Version) – 3:38
2 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Ralphi's Anthomic Vocal) – 9:36
3 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Eddie's Anthem Mix) – 9:53
4 "Save The Last Dance For Me" (Ralphi's Hydrolic Dub) – 8:29
• Jay and the Americans released a cover version of the song on their 1962 album, She Cried.
• In 1960 Polydor Records published a German cover version with lyrics by Kurt Schwabach and singer Ivo Robić. the German text is no translation.
• In 1961 Ivo Robic did a German song to this tune called "Mit 17 fangt das Leben erst an" (Live begins at 17).
• Buck Owens released a cover version in 1962; it peaked at #11 on the US country charts and appeared on Together Again.
• The Swinging Blue Jeans recorded a version in 1964 for their first UK studio album Blue Jeans a'Swinging , HMV 1802.
• Ike & Tina Turner released a cover version of the song on their 1966 album, River Deep – Mountain High.
• Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of the song during his later years on Sun Records, June 12, 1961, in Nashville, in Sam Phillips's studio..
• Swedish group the Spotnicks had an instrumental version of the song (called "Valentina") on their 1964 album The Spotnicks in Spain.
• Billy Joe Royal released a version of the song on his 1967 album, Billy Joe Royal Featuring Hush.
• During the Get Back/Let It Be sessions of January 1969, the Beatles played a short, impromptu variation of this song. It was in the original lineup of songs to be included on the album that would become Let It Be, although it was later scrapped. However, their version has appeared on many bootleg releases, including 2 LP set "The Black Album" (not to be confused with their official released The White Album issued before).
• In 1969, John Rowles recorded a version arranged and conducted by British arranger, bandleader, Johnny Arthey, released on 7" vinyl by MCA-UK the following year.
• Harry Nilsson covered the song, in a rather dark fashion, on his 1974 album, Pussy Cats, which was produced by his friend and drinking buddy John Lennon.
• The Walkmen did a cover of Pussy Cats which included "Save the Last Dance for Me". Also in 1974, the Canadian group the DeFranco Family reached #18 on the Billboard pop chart with their version of "Save the Last Dance for Me", with lead vocals sung by the 14-year-old group member Tony DeFranco.
• Patti LaBelle included a disco-flavored cover of the song as the lead track on her 1978 album, Tasty.
• In 1978, country music singer-songwriter Ron Shaw recorded the song on Pacific Challenger Records; this version reached the Top 40 on the Billboard country music chart.
• In 1979, Marcia Hines covered the song for her album, Ooh Child.
• The Forgotten Rebels recorded the song on their 1981 album This Ain't Hollywood.
• The song was covered by Mud in 1982. In 1983 Herbie Armstrong included a haunting version of the song on his solo album 'Back against the wall'. Mort Shuman himself endorsed it, certain it would be a hit. Sadly the distribution company went bust and only 800 copies of the CD were ever distributed.
• The song was translated into French by André Salvet and François Llenas and recorded by, among others, Petula Clark, Dalida, and Mort Shuman himself.
• Ben E. King 1987 Save The Last Dance For Me
• Geno Delafose recorded the song as a zydeco version on the CD LaChason Perdu in 1998 on Rounder Records. Bruce Willis released a version which appears on his 1989 album, If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger.
• An Intimate Evening With Anne Murray is a live album by Canadian singer Anne Murray, recorded December 18, 1986 performed on MTV, released in 1997 and features the song.
• In 2000, Japanese band The Neatbeats recorded the song for their album Everybody Need!
• Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell recorded it on his 2003 album, Daniel in Blue Jeans. In the 2000s, UK musician and ex-band member of Fox, Herbie Armstrong, recorded a slower, minor version of the song and released it as a single from his album, Last Dance.
• In 2003, the Troggs recorded their version of this song on an album with re-recorded songs, called "Wild Thing".
• In 2010, Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town performed this song on the second season of the Sing Off.
• In 2012 Leonard Cohen performed this song as a part of his Old Ideas World tour.
• In 2010, Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas performed a live acoustic version at the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
• In 2012, the Bally Ramblers recorded it for their debut album.
• In 2013, Blake Mills and Derek Trucks performed it together at Crossroads Guitar Festival.
• In 2012, American composer and producer Kramer covered the song and included it on his sixth album The Brill Building.
• In 2014, Leonard Cohen included this song on his Live in Dublin concert release.
• In 1960, American female R&B singer Damita Jo recorded an "answer record" to "Save the Last Dance for Me". Her song, entitled "I'll Save the Last Dance for You", built around the original song's melody and thus credited to Shuman and Pomus, peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in December 1960.
• The original version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" as performed by the Drifters is featured in the first season finale of the North American version of Queer as Folk. In a memorable scene from this episode, Brian Kinney dances with Justin Taylor to this song at Justin's senior prom, which is immediately followed by Justin being brutally attacked by a homophobic classmate in the parking garage outside the prom. The song also signifies a turning point in their relationship, as Brian was previously unwilling to admit that Justin was more than a one-night stand.
• The song was covered by New Zealander John Clarke, in character as Fred Dagg.
• The song ranked #182 on Rolling Stones The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, making it the second-highest charting Drifters song on the list, behind "Up on the Roof".
• A juke box musical entitled Save The Last Dance For Me, and featuring the song, is up and running, touring throughout the UK. Produced by Bill Kenwright, it is a spin-off to the popular Dreamboats and Petticoats musical, which some describe as "Dreamboats meets Dirty Dancing".
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