James Dean, Tupac, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, B.I.G., Winehouse, Phoenix, Ledger, and the list goes on and on. They’re in the group of amazingly talented people who tragically died too soon. I’ve been recently saddened with the thought of another member of this category, Frankie Lymon. Perhaps this was brought on by me recent viewing of Why do Fools Fall in Love, a film about the three wives of Lymon fighting for his royalties. Not necessarily the biopic I’d like to see, but enough to get the wheels turning about this young man.
I’ll never know how it feels to possess the type of talent that Frankie had. A talent that makes you an international superstar at such a young age (Frankie was 13 when him and The Teenagers first came on the scene). The type of talent that justifies having “all eyes on me.” Not many people can relate to that. On all accounts, it seems Frankie was required to grow up to fast, similarly to most young folks in showbiz I’d assume. After 18 months of the Frankie Lymon & The teenager’s great success, Frankie was encouraged to leave the group and go solo. Totally understandable in my opinion, he was who the people loved and from all the clips I’ve seen, he’s solely responsible for pulling me in. By 15, Frankie was a solo artist, womanizer, and heroine user. It’s safe to say that the people surrounding him definitely didn’t have his best interest in mind. Below is a video of Frankie at 15. So mature, so talented, and charismatic to say the least. If you look close you’ll notice Frankie messes up on the second verse but pulls off a correction greatly and gets a little laugh in as well. Remarkable at such a young age. His voice was incredible and his mannerisms were not of his age group. This clip is upsettingly short, like all that you find of him on YouTube, which is undoubtedly reflective of his unknown life and short career.
I can almost understand the need for drugs when you’re such a great talent. Constantly dealing with the pressures of performing, the realities of wanting to be watched, touched, and looked at by everyone, and having an entire family depending on you has to be crazy. When that’s your reality I’m sure it’s quite easy to allow drugs to become your safe haven. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying. My overbearing passion for Mr. Lymon is quite a bit abnormal for me and I’m not sure why it is as strong as it is to begin with. There’s just something about the aforementioned clip that truly allows me to see how talented he was (Maybe it’s just me). He was little Michael Jackson before little Michael Jackson. If given the opportunity I’m sure Frankie would have been as talented as a Sammy Davis Jr., Sinatra, or even Mike himself. Also, there’s so little information out there about Frankie, so my hunger for learning more is mouth watering at this point. I did manage to run across a heartbreaking clip of Frankie close to the peak of his heroin addiction and attempting to bring his career back. Considering the issues brought about by his lowering voice as he grew older, folks almost always made him lip sync his old hits instead of performing new songs, in which he, in my opinion, sounded like a young Sinatra. Either way, he could definitely still sing. In the following clips you’ll see a 22 year old Frankie Lymon, strung out, missing a tooth, and forced to lip synch to a song that he sang when he was 13. So Sad!
Frankie overdosed on heroine at the age of 26 in his grandmother’s bathroom. I hope to eventually learn more about his life. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get an Unsung episode (TV One) or a higher quality biopic focused on him and his life, not just the women around him. Who knows? What I do know is that Frankie Lymon was an incredibly talented young man, tragic figure In American music, and now definitely one of my Favorites.