Sunday Passage: Hank Ballard

1989 photo of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Hank Ballard, the singer and songwriter who wrote and recorded "The Twist" in 1958, a song which ushered in a nationwide dance craze in the 1960s, including Chubby Checker's own version of "The Twist," the Isley Brothers "Twist and Shout," and "Twistin' the Night Away" by Sam Cooke. AP (file)

It happened this week: The passing of the man who got America twisting.

Singer and songwriter Hank Ballard died at his Los Angeles home, and though there were questions about his age, no one doubts that he turned American music around.

Ballard started singing in the early 1950s with a group called the Royals (soon changed to the Midnighters). Their song, "Work With Me Annie," sold a million records in 1954.

But it's the song Ballard wrote four years later that everyone remembers. It was called "The Twist", and in a twist of history, it was meant to be only the "B" side of the record. But it turned some heads (and other body parts), and before you knew it, the craze was on.

Though aging Baby Boomers may deny it today, millions of them were dancing the Twist in the early '60s -- not to mention flocking to see Chubby Checker in the movie "Twist Around The Clock," or buying the many Twist songs that were knock-offs of the original.

Hank Ballard went on to have other hits, such as "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go", which he was still performing into the new millennium.

And although he's gone, the same can't be said for the craze he launched. As long as there are people limber enough to do the Twist, we're a long way from Hank Ballard's last dance.
  • Ellen Crean

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