About a decade ago, I was walking down 23rd Street in Manhattan, when suddenly, without warning, a group of teenagers in front of me burst into song. To my surprise, they belted out the doo-wop classic “In the Still of the Night.” I immediately texted my father, a lifelong fan of the tune, saying I thought the scene was emblematic of just how well the track has endured.
“In the Still of the Night” was first recorded by the Five Satins in 1956. The song was not a huge hit upon its release. But with its memorable chorus and perfect doo-wop harmonies, it has grown more popular through time. In the ‘80s, WCBS-FM (New York City’s oldies station) repeatedly listed the song in the number one spot on its annual Top 500 countdown. Around the same time, the song appeared on the 1987 mega-selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack. There have been a number of covers over the years, most notably by Philly soulsters Boyz II Men, who gave it the “Cooley High” treatment in 1992.
The song turned up on late night TV last week when Jimmy Fallon and the Roots sang an acapella rendition on The Tonight Show. For the episode on Monday, March 25, Fallon travelled to various locations around the city. While driving through Brooklyn, he described how his father once sang in a doo-wop group. “I thought maybe tonight why not pay homage to the doo-wop singers out there.”
It was a perfectly crafted New York-scene with the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. Fallon took on lead vocal duties and even hit the high notes. Members of the Roots provided a steady stream of “shoo-doo, shoo-be-doos” and other harmonies. Together, they simply performed the song the way it was meant to be sung, on a street corner.
Click here to listen to more covers by the Roots.