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56) Joe Dowell – “Wooden Heart (Muss I Den)”

Pat Boone eked a 3 because, in another lifetime, “Moody River” was actually a good song.  But if Elvis couldn’t rescue the treacly “Wooden Heart,” then poor Joe Dowell didn’t have a chance.  Dowell’s lone top 20 hit was a cover in the true definition of the word: not just a remake, but one designed to piggyback on another version.  For reasons mysterious (or not, if you’ve ever listened to the song), Presley’s single was never released in the US, despite topping the UK charts for six weeks.  Sensing an opportunity, Dowell’s label Smash Records recruited the anonymous young singer and taught him to croon the German phoenetically.  Sure enough, the record was a hit, although why isn’t quite clear. There was the tenuous Elvis connection, of course, but surely that couldn’t have been enough to entice record buyers.  No one had heard of Joe Dowell, so they weren’t buying it for him.  There couldn’t have been that many German omas in the Midwest with August birthdays and functioning Victrolas.  Which leads to a troubling conclusion: people bought “Wooden Heart” because they liked it.  Which … is a dificult concept to grasp.  The (English) lyrics are vacuous, the cheapo musical arrangement is quarter-baked and Dowell carefully avoids spilling out a single drop of personality.  While I’m all for German on the Hot 100  (“99 Luftballoons”! “Don’t bring me down – Grüß”!), I’m disappointed that, in this case, it’s in a song with absolutely no redeeming value. Well, one – it’s still not quite as terrible as “Mr. Custer.” 2

Hit #1 on August 28, 1961; total of 1 week at #1
56 of 969 #1’s reviewed; 5.78% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 02, 1961