Frankie Lymon had a falsetto voice and recorded a monster hit in the 50's with some friends. He was born in New York City in 1942, and attended Edward W. Stitt Junior High School where he helped to form a singing group called The Premiers. Along with lead singer Frankie the group included Joe Negroni, Herman Santiago, Sherman Garnes and Jimmy Merchant. Richard Barrett, leader of a group known as The Valentines and a talent scout for the Gee record label, heard them singing on the stairs of a tenement on 165th Street in Manhattan and brought them to George Goldner at Gee. They were renamed The Teenagers.
In 1955 they formed a song from a poem that had been given to them by a friendly neighbor. Later that year they recorded Why Do Fools Fall In Love? and it was released as a record by The Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon. The song went to the top ten in the USA and remained on the charts for many weeks, and it reached #1 in the United Kingdom. A catchy tune with a brilliant performance by Frankie Lymon, it was one of the most popular songs of the early days of rock-and-roll.
Other songs were recorded and released in 1956 and 1957 including I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent and others. The group appeared in some movies such as Rock, Rock, Rock and Mister Rock and Roll, and in 1957 Goldner began promoting Frankie as a solo act; Frankie released some songs of his own including the top twenty song Goody, Goody and eventually he signed with Roulette Records. Meanwhile, The Teenagers tried various replacements but none with the success that they had had earlier.
Frankie Lymon by this time had a serious drug problem. In 1961 he was forced into a drug rehabilitation program at Manhattan General Hospital. He attempted a comeback -- singing, dancing, and playing drums -- but never was able to shake his addiction and was convicted on a narcotics charge in 1964. He was found dead from a drug overdose on the bathroom floor of his grandmother's apartment at age 25, on February 28, 1968.
Frankie's brother Lewis performed briefly with the remaining Teenagers in the 70's. Teenagers baritone Joe Negroni died in 1978. The group came back in the 80's with some replacements but still included original members Santiago and Merchant.
Diana Ross covered Why Do Fools Fall In Love? in 1981 and it once again was a top ten song. Royalties on the song passed the $1 million mark, and in 1986 three women claiming to be Frankie Lymon's widow were arguing over rights to the song with Roulette [one of them was former Platters singer Zola Taylor].
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers was one of the groups that helped to get rock-and-roll off the ground in the 50's. The group was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. A movie based on the life of Frankie Lymon titled Why Do Fools Fall In Love? was released in 1998.
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