MAY 20

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ON THIS DATE in 1996, thirteen-year-old LeAnn Rimes recorded “Blue,” a 40-year-old song that some deejays thought too old to be a hit. Bill Mack, who took just 15 minutes to write the tune in 1956, recalled one deejay insisting, “That piece of junk will never make it! It’s too country!”

The record-buying public disagreed, and Rimes’ “Blue” sold more than eight million copies, propelled the same-named album to number one on the country charts, and brought a pile of awards, including Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.

Mack supposedly wrote the song for Patsy Cline, a country music legend who died in a 1963 plane crash. Thirty-three years later, the songwriter and Texas deejay was stunned when he heard Rimes sing “Blue.” “Her voice was perfect,” he said, “and she sang from the heart. She was unbelievable.”

A second single from the Blue album, “One Way Ticket (Because I Can),” would top the country charts, and Rimes would record six other studio albums in the next 10 years that reached the top three of the country charts.

APRIL 30

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ON THIS DATE in 1956, thirteen-year-old Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers released “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” a doo-wop hit that would go to number one in Great Britain Britain and peak at number six in the U.S. Rolling Stone magazine in 2004 ranked it 307th in its list of Top 500 rock-era songs.

Frankie Lymon

Frankie Lymon

Initially titled “Why Do Birds Sing So Gay,” the song’s title and focus were altered by Frankie and his bandmates. Doo-wop was a rhythm-and-blues style characterized by upbeat harmonies that often included nonsense words such as “shoop de do de do wop.” The group followed “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” with five more songs that made the R&B charts but fizzled after Lymon’s youthful voice deepened. The singer developed a heroin addiction and died of an overdose in 1968 at age twenty-five.

Lymon and the Teenagers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Five years later a movie of Lymon’s life, titled Why Do Fools Fall in Love, was released.

MARCH 14

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“WORDS DO HURT,” said the handwritten message thirteen-year-old Alye Pollack held at the beginning of a three-minute YouTube video uploaded three years ago today (March 14, 2011). The Connecticut eighth-grader remained silent as she presented other signs that said,

“Do I look happy?” “Well, I’m not.”

“I am bullied. Not a day goes by without one of these words,” ‘bitch, whore, fat, lesbo, slut, freak, ugly, weird, fag.’”

“I’m in therapy guidance more than my classes”

“Think before you say things. It might save lives.”

“HELP.”

Pollack’s YouTube video, described as “haunting” by CBS News, attracted more than 280,000 viewers in a little more than two weeks, and some potential tormentors got the message. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I know not to say bad things. I think before I say something,’” she told Westport-news.com. “And that’s just amazing, because they actually are being affected by my video.” In October of 1911, a Youth Services director in Needham, Massachusetts, announced that his staff would be showing Pollack’s video to students caught bullying.

One year after uploading her first video, Pollack posted a follow-up titled “Words DO hurt: 1 year later” that showed how her life had improved. She continued with the hand-written messages, but this time a card said, “I’ve made so many new friends,” and another, “IT GETS BETTER.”

DECEMBER 11

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Above: Three of the four Marvelettes, with Gladys Horton on the right.

FIFTY-TWO YEARS ago today, sixteen-year-old Gladys Horton and the Marvelettes delivered Motown’s first number-one single, “Please Mr. Postman.” The 1961 chart-topper was distinguished by Horton’s emphatic vocals as she sang, “De-liver the let-ter, the sooner the bet-ter!”

Horton created the group with five friends from a Detroit high school, with one member leaving to make it a four-girl act. “We only started singing together because Gladys asked us,” recalled Katherine Schaffner, one of the founding members. Originally called the Casinyets, a contraction of “can’t sing yet,” the band was signed by Berry Gordy’s Detroit-based Motown label, changed its name to The Marvelettes, and recorded “Please Mr. Postman” a month before Horton’s sixteenth birthday.

The Marvelettes enjoyed moderate follow-up success to “Please Mr. Postman” before their brief reign as Motown’s top girl group was eclipsed by the Supremes, whose first smash hit, “Where Did Our Love Go?” had been initially offered to Horton’s group. “Please Mr. Postman” was covered by the Beatles in 1963 and the Carpenters in 1975.