When browsing through YouTube for the clip above, I came across a live performance of “I Will Follow Him” from 2002. Peggy March was singing as part as one of those oldies nostalgia revues that air on public television during pledge drives. Despite having the past 40 years and an entire career defined by this one track, March is an enthusiastic performer. She’s clearly had vocal lessons in the intervening decades, as she sings with an assured, polished voice quite unlike the one that graced the original recording. Of course, it’s difficult – and rarely desirable – to retain the same vocal qualities you had when you were 15 (although Brenda Lee managed it). Nevertheless, I still felt a vague sense of disappointment. March had traded her distinctive voice for one that was generic, albeit ostensibly better.
I only remark on March’s voice because it is one of the two great things about the original recording of “I Will Follow Him.” Although she had an innate sense of pitch and melody, her voice hadn’t yet had all the rawness buffed out of it yet. March, much like Ronnie Spector, has the knack of sounding both vulnerable and assertive – exactly how an adolescent should. The other terrific aspect of the song is its arrangement. The music, co-composed by Paul Mauriat and Franck Pourcel, is so absurdly dramatic as to make “He’s a Rebel” look meek and pedestrian. Yet this too matches the spirit of the song. This is music that can part oceans and knock down mountains, if that’s what it takes for our heroine to reach her destiny. Subtlety is unheard of and every emotion is cranked up to 11 – which is a lot like how it feels to be a teenager. 7
Hit #1 on April 27, 1963; total of 3 weeks at #1
89 of 976 #1’s reviewed; 9.12% through the Hot 100