Rest in peace, Jimmy Beaumont: The Skyliners, “Since I Don’t Have You” (1959)

skyliner

(Above: Sheet music for “Since I Don’t Have You.”)

Read this morning that Jimmy Beaumont passed away in Pennsylvania at the age of 76.  That might not be a name that you immediately recognize, but you more than likely have heard his work. He’s also the subject of a great article/obit in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Beaumont spent sixty years on stage, beginning his career as a teen singer in 1957 and performing as recently as three weeks ago in New York City. He’s best known as the lead singer for The Skyliners, a white doo-wop group that had more success on the R&B charts than in the mainstream, in no small part due to audiences thinking that the group was black. For many listeners, it wasn’t until the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars came to town that the misperception was cleared up.

“Since I Don’t Have You” stalled at #12 on the Billboard charts in early 1959.  But it made it to the top of the rival Cash Box charts, and peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues charts that year. A follow up single, “This I Swear,” charted around the middle of the Top 40, and a third record – a cover of Bing Crosby’s “Pennies from Heaven” – was the band’s last single in 1960.

The record was a staple of countless “oldies” collections for sale once the 50s nostalgia craze manifested itself in the 1970s.  The song’s inclusion in the film American Graffiti helped to introduce it to a new generation of music fans, who turned out in droves to see the more modern “caravan”-type oldies concerts in the 1990s and 2000s.  One that we hosted in Chicago in 2004 featured Beaumont, and his voice still sounded fantastic.  (That’s no small claim.  Often the performers on these tours have to rework their hits into lower keys to accommodate aging voices.  Beaumont sounded fresh, even managing to hit the high note in the song, a feat I won’t even try in my car.)

“Since I Don’t Have You” is a terrific song.  It’s been covered over the years by artists ranging from Art Garfunkel and Don McLean (whose 1981 version made it to #23) to Guns N Roses, whose version appeared in the Lethal Weapon film series.

The original’s still the greatest, though.  You can hear “Since I Don’t Have You” by clicking here.

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