The Real-Life Sadness in “Under the Boardwalk”

On the evening of May 21, 1964, The Drifters went into the studio for a scheduled recording session. But the session did not go as the group had originally planned, because the group’s members found out that day that singer Rudy Lewis had died a day earlier.

That Thursday night at the studio, the members of the group were in tears but decided to go through with the recording session. During the session, the band recorded “Under the Boardwalk,” with singer Johnny Moore taking the lead on the track that was intended for Lewis.

The song evokes the “happy sounds of the carousel” and lovers hanging out by the beach. But there is a bittersweet tone to the song, so if you listen close enough, you my feel you can hear a little of the sadness that the men were feeling when they recorded the song.

Different websites report different causes of death for Lewis, saying there is some confusion about whether he died from either a drug overdose or from asphyxiation in his sleep from overeating. But one site says the cause of death was a heart attack. Lewis — whose voice is featured on such Drifters’ classics as “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “On Broadway,” and “Up on the Roof” — was only 27 years old.

And that is the story behind the song “Under the Boardwalk,” written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick. Rolling Stone magazine lists the song as the eighteenth greatest summer song of all time.

What is your favorite song by The Drifers? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • The True Story of Tom Dooley
  • “Streetlight Harmonies” Tells the History of Doo-Wop
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers Song That Includes a Tribute to Bobby Kennedy
  • Classical Gas and 3000 Years of Art
  • Please Mrs. Avery . . . This Song Is Stuck In My Head
  • Billy Grammer and Buddy Holly’s Opening Song, “Gotta Travel On”
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)