Sunday, July 07, 2002


by Wayne Robins

Don't you love it when a serious pundit decides to draw on rock and roll history for a column and gets the reference he's making totally wrong? In his column July 5, Daniel Henninger, the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal's clamorously conservative editorial pages, wrote a truly indecipherable column having to do with rock and roll, patriotism, and John Philip Sousa. It would be a dexterous triple axel indeed, but Henninger falls on his posterior before he's tied his skates. It’s free online in the WSJ's Opinion Journal.

Noting that "there is a museum of rock 'n' roll" in his native Cleveland, he asks, with rueful red, white and blue sincerity: "I wonder if some day there will be a museum of American patriotism."

This is just the set up to Mr. Henninger's big "rock 'n' roll" moment: He begins the next section of his essay quoting the lines "Rock 'n' roll is here to stay, it will never die." Then, Mr. Henninger writes:

"That lyric, taken from the rock-musical 'Grease' and made into an anthem by the oldies group Sha-Na-Na, once seemed true to me."

If only Mr. Henninger's bold assertion were true. For "Rock and Roll is Here To Stay" alights not from "Grease," the genteel yet phony 1950's musical from the 1970's, nor was Sha Na Na in any way responsible for the resonance of its message.

"Rock and Roll is Here to Stay" was the second of two top twenty hits for Danny & the Juniors, a clean-cut but sharp-looking vocal group out of 1950's Philadelphia. "At the Hop" was of course Danny & the Juniors' smash, number one for seven weeks in late 1957 and early 1958, and in the top 40 for four and a half months. The followup, "Rock and Roll is Here To Stay," peaked at number 19 on Billboard's Top 100 the week of March 10, 1958, according to the readily accessible "Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits." But it remained in heavy rotation on oldies AM radio and jukeboxes for many years. A sad footnote: the group's leader, Danny Rapp, died in 1983, an apparent suicide.

Mr. Henninger's column is named Wonder Land. I'd be tempted to ask "I Wonder Why," but I'm afraid that reference to the great Dion & the Belmonts hit (also from 1958), would go right over Mr. Henninger's head.

(c) copyright 2002 by Wayne Robins. All rights reserved. Comments? Write

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