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On Valentine's Day, A Doo-Wop Zoom That Goes Straight For The Heart04:12
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The doo-wop group "The Cadillacs" pose for a portrait with their lead singer Earl Carroll (top) in circa 1954 in New York.  They recorded a song called "Zoom." (James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The doo-wop group "The Cadillacs" pose for a portrait with their lead singer Earl Carroll (top) in circa 1954 in New York. They recorded a song called "Zoom." (James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Songs tend to reflect the times in which they’re written. With the passage of time, they often come to mean new things. In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s considers two 1950s doo-wop songs with an oddly contemporary motif.

One starts with the sound “zum,” but it’s spelled Z-O-O-M, just like the online platform.

“Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom …
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom …"

In 1958, the Harlem-based doo-wop group called The Collegians made it the musical foundation for a love song they called "Zoom Zoom Zoom."

“I love you
Yes I love you so
Want the world to know
That I love you so…"

Zoom may be the bane of your pandemic existence, when from dawn to dusk and beyond, you’re glued to the platform until — square-eyed — you expire from Zoom fatigue. But for The Collegians, it seemed an ideal lyrical bed for a marriage proposal.

“I need you
Need you by my side
Want you for my bride…"

Lawrence Pitilli, author of the book "Doo-Wop A Capella," says that “zoom” is an ideal nonsense syllable to show off the singers’ skill and hook the listener. The letter sounds work well together, he explains: “You have these very organic sounds coming out. You have a vibratory 'Z,' you have an open vowel, and it concludes with a bilabial, two-lip sound. It’s going to work.”

But inspiration may have come from another doo-wop song called — simply — "Zoom." In that song, recorded by The Cadillacs, the onomatopoetic “zoom” — depicting speed and movement — gets the melody going.

“Well, Zoom!
Went the strings on my heart,
Yes I know you'd sta'art,
A little flame in my heart."

During the pandemic, Zoom of a different sort has been the conduit to corporate meetings and funerals. But also, the sweet things in life — the introduction to newborns, reunions with long-lost friends, and weddings.

Ryan Crain and Kayla MacArthur (Courtesy)
Ryan Crain and Kayla MacArthur (Courtesy)

People have dated on Zoom. Some, like Kayla MacArthur and Ryan Crain, who connected virtually through a mutual friend, have fallen in love.

“It allowed two people who might’ve never met in person to come together,” MacArthur, who's from Massachusetts, points out.

Crain reflects a little more personally. “For me, it was just incredibly serendipitous and surreal.”

For many couples, the place where they first met has special emotional resonance. The night club, the college quad, the bus stop. For those whose eyes first locked on Zoom, the visceral memory may not be quite as rich in sensory stimuli. But still.

“It’s just all like wow, how did this all happen!” MacArthur enthuses, and laughs.

It happened because in the pandemic, Zoom was a life- — or rather, a love-line.

This segment aired on February 12, 2021.

Judith Kogan Reporter
Judith Kogan is a contributor to Only A Game.

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