Today’s number-one single offers only a slight time variation from the three others I’ve already written about. While “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Angie Baby”, and “Babe” were all recorded and found the bulk of their success at some point in the 70s, Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” reached the top spot for one single glorious week in 1964.
But actually, the story of this song reaches back a little bit further, all the way to 1947. In that year, the song was written by famed composer and lyricist Irving Taylor with music by pianist Ken Lane. It was first recorded by Frank Sinatra, with numerous subsequent recordings from artists as varied as Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, and even Glen Campbell! By the time 1964 rolled around, Martin had cemented himself as a popular American crooner of Italian descent who had been singing and recording mostly standards for about two decades. When Lane – Martin’s longtime backing pianist – had introduced the idea of selling his rendition to audiences, few had confidence in its success.
And it isn’t all that hard to see how: 1964 was the year of The Beatles and their international crossover was unparalleled in its utter visibility and sphere of influence. The year had all but kicked off with an astonishing fourteen consecutive weeks of Beatles songs in the top spot. As the group’s popularity surged, many other bands from the UK began to find similar success overseas, including The Rolling Stones, The Dark Clark Five, The Animals, The Kinks, and many others. The British Invasion was well underway and the traditional pop sound of the 50s and early 60s now seemed awkwardly antiquated.
But a chance for resurgence came in the form of Louis Armstrong, whose recording of “Hello, Dolly!” (from the movie musical of the same name) ended the Beatles’s seemingly endless reign by making it to number-one in early summer. This proved that the aging musicians of yesteryear still had a chance to hit the big time with a new generation of listeners. The tension between these two schools of pop music is most aptly represented in the oft-told tale of Martin (no fan of rock music himself) promising his then-teenaged son he would knock The Beatles off the charts. Sure enough, the Fab Four found their way to the number-one spot yet again later the summer (with “A Hard Day’s Night”) – only to be dethroned by Martin’s iconic tune after two weeks.
In its essence, there were very few changes made to Dean Martin’s record that would place it as markedly different from its preceding versions. The lyrics, basic melody, AABA verse format, and overall sentimentality remain relatively static across all recordings of the song, at least all the ones I have stumbled across. Nonetheless, the changes that Martin did make are crucial to its overall reception. Notably, the tempo – Sinatra’s version, for example, opts for the standard slow and sleepy rhythm that defines many of his own sentimental ballads. Martin’s version, on the other hand, introduces itself with this type of slow tempo, only to pick up in double-time after the first line (“Everybody loves somebody sometimes”). It sounds simple enough, but this decision to change the tune to something more suitable for a softly rhythmic sway and sing-a-long proved extremely important to cementing it to absolute legendary status.
Moreover, Martin just sounds great here, with a perfectly seasoned voice that so naturally flows from one sentiment to the next with a sublime air of professionalism. With some lines he almost sounds intoxicated, but I think that only heightens the genuine bliss that lies in the core of this song and its lyrics. And speaking of those lyrics. After twenty years of innovations in popular music (and over fifty more since this specific recording), Irving Taylor’s penmanship continues to glimmer like poetry as if not a single day had passed. Every line in this is wonderful, but I’m especially a fan of the third and final verse: “Everybody loves somebody sometime / And although my dream was overdue / Your love made it well worth waiting / For someone like you”. In so little words, the song perfectly sums up the trials and tribulations it takes for one human being to find another whom they can comfortably call their soulmate. It’s classics like these that come around only once in a blue moon – and I’m thankful that I’m alive in a time wherein this exists and I can appreciate it as fully as possible.