In no way is my love for doo wop just about nostalgia. Like any music one grows up with, there is always some element of nostalgia to be tapped into. But dozens of doo wop songs are still in heavy rotation for me because of their inherent musical virtues: great vocal group arrangements and performances that capture timeless emotions and are always fun to sing and dance along with.

Doo wop, of course, is a term invented long after-the-fact to describe a style of mainly rhythm & blues vocal group records that were a major part of the development of rock and soul music. On the Alley Timeline, doo wop constitutes 30% (159 of 521) of all the songs prior to 1964. That's a pretty decent chunk of all pre-Beatles rock & soul music. I posted the list of just these doo wop songs here.

As with all musical styles, doo wop defies simple definition. This one's typical: "...a subcategory of vocal group harmony [including] ... a wide range of vocal parts, nonsense syllables, a simple beat, light instrumentation, and simple music and lyrics. Above all, the focus is on ensemble singing." I would add, often with great artistry and passion.

It's hard to find great examples of original live performances of doo wop on video because it was standard practice for groups on old TV shows to sing along ("lip-synch") to records rather than to perform live. I found a couple of pretty grainy but still rewarding live clips of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and "Searchin'" which are posted on the Home Page for the next couple of weeks and can be watched later on YouTube here and here.

Although serious doo wop fans are a niche audience, great collections of doo wop music have sold in significant numbers. The 4-CD Rhino Doo Wop box set sold so well that Rhino released two more 4-CD follow-ups.

Bear Family has begun to release a new "Street Corner Symphonies" series that all doo wop lovers should know about. Characteristically for this great reissue label, the selections, sound quality, packaging, and liner notes are all of the highest quality. Once all 15 volumes are released it will include more than 30 doo wop songs from each year, 1950-1963. You can see what they've done so far -- including track lists and music samples -- at their website.

Doo wop music is marketed on TV primarily as a nostagia trip for Baby Boomers. Is it just about nostalgia for you?