It was perhaps one of the biggest controversies in music history. And it started forty-five years ago.
On February 27, 1968, singer Frankie Lymon was found dead at the age of 25, the result of a drug overdose. He along with the group the Teenagers, was best known for their hit “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, which had become one of the most covered songs of all time, becoming a hit for other artists including Diana Ross, and being featured in films including American Graffiti. And here is where the controversy began.
Beginning in 1981, almost thirteen years after Lymon’s death, a legal battle ensued over the singer’s estate, particularly over “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”. Along with Morris Levy (the co-writer of the song, as well as the owner of Lymon’s copyrights and royalties), the legal controversy would also include three women (one of them including Platters singer Zola Taylor) claiming to be his widow, as well as former members of the Teenagers, who sued for songwriting credits. It would later result in Lymon’s widow Emira Eagle winning the right for monetary compensation over royalties, and authorship of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” remaining in the names of Lymon and Levy.
Despite the short period of success, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers have been deemed influential in both rock and R&B, and have inspired countless artists including Michael Jackson, the Beach Boys, and Smokey Robinson. Their story would later inspired the 1998 movie Why Do Fools Fall in Love, thus becoming one of the reasons their legacy have reached a younger audience beyond their heyday.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, inducted in 1993.