On Broadway: A Drifters Review

Some time ago we selected the 1978 George Benson version of ‘On Broadway’, which we consider to be one of the all-time great popular recordings. Benson, a fine jazz guitarist as well as a talented singer, deserved his success, being head and shoulders above the whiners and strummers of the Pop world. However, ‘On Broadway’ was originally a 1963 hit for a group called ‘The Drifters’. The story is that the singing group (of Black ex-Gospel singers), were a song short during a recording date. ‘On Broadway’ was suggested. It had been written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for another group and was about a singer hoping to get to Broadway. It had a different chord structure from the final version. Lieber and Stoller, who were running the recording session, changed the melody a little and the lyrics now featured a guitarist already arrived on Broadway. The Drifter’s version of the melody is a little different from Benson’s and I cannot find out who was the lead singer. But the backing musicians included jazz trumpeters from the Basie Band, Joe Newman and Ernie Royal.

Not as good as Benson’s version but deserving of recognition. A good atmospheric lyric, compelling rhythm appropriately delivered and enriched by repeated key changes! Enjoy! 

*The pop music tag refers to music that was popular at any time (bebop, for example, was not popular with the general crowd, so you probably won’t find bebop and pop music together).

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