John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

“Come Softly To Me”

The Fleetwoods soft rock ‘50s classic is somehow ethereal yet slightly chilling.

By - Apr 3rd, 2015 04:32 pm
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The Fleetwoods

The Fleetwoods

If you like this song, you can no longer be accused of being young. It’s from a long time ago (1959) and has been found to have zero rock and roll in it. In fact, this song may have been the great grandparent of the dreaded “soft rock.” That terrible category includes despicable milksop like Bread, Barry Manilow, latter-day Neil Diamond, and anyone else that makes your energy drink go flat.

So why do I like this bit of cotton candy called Come Softly To Me and other equally swell songs by three teenagers, Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis from Olympia Washington? It’s hard to answer that. Knowing that Blue Oyster Cult covered this song makes it even more confusing. I usually don’t feel like I’m on the same page as the Cowbell Kings, and it’s certainly a far cry from Don’t Fear The Reaper.

In its own cuddly way, though, it’s as naked and extreme an expression as that song — of course it lives way at the other end of the spectrum. The song was written by the three members and recorded without instruments, Troxel apparently shook his car keys to keep time. Later some light overdubs were added in Los Angeles and the song was released. It went to number one. They had two others soon after that did the same thing, including the wonderful, Mr Blue.

I could have chosen that song, it’s a coin flip really. They both capture something almost too ethereal to exist. There is a lot of doo-wop and swing in the vocal style, and it may be this that keeps it from descending into the lower circles of the easy listening genre. The swing is offset by the pure youthfulness of their voices.

Before the record was released, the title was lengthened from “Come Softly” to “Come Softly To Me.” The record company was afraid the title might be considered risque and it may have seemed even more so given the way Gretchen and Barbara cooed it. The two words added to the title never are actually sung and you have to wonder, how innocent were they? I’ll take the less jaded view and give them the benefit of the doubt… either way, it’s a chilling and superbly musical outing.

Troxel provides the groove with his background part, breaking away later for a couple verses that could have been written on the back of a three ring binder. Hear it once and you never forget it— it’s my pleasant earworm as I type this. I can’t say that these are the “official” lyrics, the internet, you know. But I like the way his scatted part resembles some sort of whacky mantra.

Mm dooby do, dahm dahm, dahm do dahm ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm do dahm, ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm do dahm, ooby do
Dahm dahm, dahm ooh dahm
Mm dooby do

(Come softly, darling)
(Come softly, darling)
(Come softly, darling)
(Come softly, darling)
(Come softly, darling)
(Come to me, sta-ay)
(You’re my ob-session)
(For ever and a da-ay)

I want, want you to kno-o-ow
I love, I love you so
Please hold, hold me so tight
All through, all through the night

I’ve waited, waited so long
For your kisses and your love
Please come, come to me
From up, from up above

I need, need you so much
Wanna feel your wa-arm touch

© Troxel, Christopher & Ellis

Everybody needs a whacky mantra (and maybe they all are a little whacked). I like the parentheses here, too. Punctuation for lyrics is something not found in Strunk & White. Generally I like to leave it wide open. What do the parentheses mean, anyway? Can you sing one?

I don’t know why this song was left off the Blue Velvet soundtrack. It’s been in other movies, but it is what I would call the definition of “Lynchian.” Something innocent on the surface, in this case probably all the way through, but who knows?

The Fleetwoods, in some form or another, appear on PBS fundraisers, where nobody will mistake them for teenagers. The later part of their careers found members coming and going, arguments in court and the eventual reunion or two. Brazil may invented the Bossa-Nova, but a long time ago, in the upper left hand corner of our beautiful country, these three high-schoolers must have felt it coming. Softly.

Sorry, had to add that.

0 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: “Come Softly To Me””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Once again you’ve shown that you picture yourself as just too cool to say anything positive about a song that you consider to be …soft. You must really be a hard ass. The Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me,” “Mr. Blue” and a couple of follow up smaller hits all fall under the category of acapella doo wop. They are wonderful late 50s/early 60s examples of this genre. The only things that make the Fleetwoods different from contemporaries like, for example, the Crests, is that the group was made up of a man and 2 women (unusual in those days to mix genders) and they were from the west coast, rather than the east, where 99% of doo wop groups came from. You got the lyrics wrong too! It’s not “ooby do.” It’s “dooby do.” I think you really had have been alive when it happened to appreciate early rock and roll. you must be too young or have lived in a cave or something.

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