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Poor Old Johnnie Ray

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Poor Old Johnnie Ray

Most people from my generation – the children of the '80s – probably know Johnnie Ray as a lyric from a song they either love or hate. "Poor old Johnnie Ray sounded sad upon the radio, broke a million hearts in mono."

If you think of Dexy's Midnight Runners and their hit "Come On Eileen" when Johnnie Ray is mentioned, maybe it's time to change that. On what would have been his 85th birthday, we offer a Johnnie Ray musical primer.

Much more than just an opening line to a bouncy song of teen lust, Johnnie Ray was one of the greats who paved the way for rock 'n' roll. He burst onto the scene in 1952 with the hit single "Cry," topping the charts and becoming a teen idol.


It wasn't just Ray's sweet voice that 1950s teeny-boppers loved. His onstage antics set him apart from the crowd of crooners and drove his female fans wild. As he threw himself to the floor, tore at his hair, and cried his way through his songs, he became known as "Mr. Emotion" and "The Prince of Wails."


So, children of the '80s (and anyone else who wasn't too familiar with Johnnie Ray before reading this), if you've liked what you've heard here, you might try delving deeper into his extensive discography. There's a reason he’s been name-checked by Dexy's Midnight Runners… and Billy Joel ("We Didn't Start the Fire"), and Billy Idol ("Don't Need a Gun"), and Van Morrison ("Sometimes We Cry")… years ago, he was the hottest thing going.

Written by Linnea Crowther