Nothing in pop music moves me more than a grown man carrying on like a lovesick 12-year-old. You don’t hear so much of it these days – because we’re all so sophisticated and knowing – but the simple set up of singing to, and about, a girl still seems to me to be what pop music should be all about. Of course, it needs to be done well. It’s not something any idiot can do, despite what pop music’s detractors would like us to believe.
Here, Eric Donaldson absolutely nails it. Although released in 1971, Cherry Oh Baby harks back to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and Doo Wop. The lyrics are fairly straightforward “I love you” stuff but with a pleasing oddness found, for instance, in the use of the word “thee” and the grammatically incorrect “Can’t you see I’m in love with you/if you don’t believe I do”. But where the song really hits is in the the melody and, especially, the singing. And especially in the chorus where Donaldson dispenses with mere words and tops off his pleading “whoah-oh-ohs” with an almost euphoric “yeah-ay-ay-ay-ay”. What girl could resist that? Especially when this declaration of adoration comes wrapped up in a gentle but powerful rhythm that could make even the stoniest heart pulse.