Len Barry, the lead singer of the Dovells on their danceable early-1960s hits “Bristol Stomp” and “You Can’t Sit Down” and later a solo artist whose profession peaked along with his infectious love track “1-2-3,” died on Nov. 5 in a hospital in Philadelphia. He was 78.
His son Spencer Borisoff stated the trigger was myelodysplasia, a bone marrow illness.
The Dovells had been a doo-wop group whose members had all sung lead at numerous instances. When the group auditioned for Cameo-Parkway Information in Philadelphia in late 1960, Mr. Barry sang lead on “No, No, No,” a track he had written. They obtained the deal, and his sturdy, soulful voice secured his function with the group.
“Lenny had an ideal voice,” Jerry Gross, one of the Dovells, stated in an interview. “He had the sound they wished.”
The again cowl of the group’s first album, “Bristol Stomp,” featured transient biographies of every singer. Mr. Barry’s stated, “His hobbies embrace rock an’ roll, basketball and, naturally, women.”
After a number of modest hits (together with “Bristol Twistin’ Annie” and “The Jitterbug”), the Dovells returned to the Prime 10 in 1963 with the infectious “You Can’t Sit Down,” which peaked at No. 3.
Later that yr, Mr. Barry left the group in a dispute over its path. He wished the Dovells to maneuver additional into rhythm and blues, Mr. Gross stated, however the others wished to change into a nightclub act.
“Lenny came visiting and he stated: ‘I’m free. I wish to be a solo artist,’” John Madara, a producer and songwriter, stated in an interview in 2014 on the net collection “Tom TV.”
Mr. Madara and his companion, David White, an original member of the group Danny and the Juniors, began producing songs for Mr. Barry at Decca Records, including “At the Hop ’65” and “Lip Sync (to the Tongue Twisters).”
“1-2-3” — written by Mr. Madara and Mr. White, with lyrics within the bridge contributed by Mr. Barry — rose to No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1965. Mr. Barry by no means had an even bigger hit.
Mr. Madara stated he had the thought for “1-2-3,” however Mr. Barry stated he did. He advised The Albany Herald in 2012 that he was impressed by the Marvelettes’ track “Beachwood 4-5789,” and by his interracial relationship with one of many group’s members, to which her household objected.
“The track actually was about interracial relations that had been as simple as ‘1-2-3,’” he stated.
Leonard Warren Borisoff was born on June 12, 1942, in Philadelphia. His mom, Bernice (Goldsmith) Borisoff, offered males’s clothes. His father, Joe, managed a bar.
A passionate and proficient basketball participant, Len was on the Overbrook Excessive Faculty group that gained the Philadelphia metropolis title in 1959. His teammates included two future N.B.A. gamers, Walt Hazzard and Wally Jones.
Whereas in highschool he additionally sang with a doo-wop group, the Brooktones, a few of whose members had been later within the Dovells. He would proceed to carry out with the Dovells and on his personal by way of the early 1970s — however solely often afterward.
Mr. Barry was a reluctant performer who disliked being onstage. He additionally disliked being referred to as a “blue-eyed soul singer,” a time period he thought of an insult.
“He boisterously objected to the time period,” Mr. Borisoff stated of his father. “He felt it was racist, like individuals had been saying, ‘Oh, for a white man that’s good soul.’”
Singing gave approach to writing, co-writing and producing songs in numerous genres for Fats Larry’s Band (“Zoom”), Blue Magic (“Freak-n-Stein”), Brandi Wells (“S”), Sylvester (“Somebody Like You”), Slick (“Area Bass”) and Booker Newberry III (“Love City”).
He nonetheless sang often, however he spurned Mr. Gross’s requests to reunite with the opposite Dovells till the chance introduced itself in 1994. Mr. Barry was booked on an oldies tour individually from the Dovells (who by then was down to 2 members, Mr. Gross and Mark Stevens, who nonetheless carry out collectively).
“I noticed Len in Syracuse and stated, ‘Come out and do the “Bristol Stomp” with us,’” Mr. Gross stated. “I stated, ‘We’ll share the lead, we’ll do no matter you need.’” Mr. Barry agreed, somewhat reluctantly. “We had a number of enjoyable,” Mr. Gross stated, and so they obtained collectively once more to sing “Bristol Stomp” on the subsequent tour cease, in Hartford, Conn. However it was their final time collectively.
Along with his son, Mr. Barry is survived by his daughter, Bia Gerngross, and two grandchildren. His marriage to Elaine Uniman led to divorce.
In 2008, Mr. Barry shifted to writing fiction. He collaborated along with his son on “Black-Like-Me,” about two younger white kids rising up in a Black neighborhood. The novel was a mirrored image of Mr. Barry’s experiences attending an built-in highschool, acting on the identical invoice with Black artists and having a voice that was generally mistaken for a Black singer’s.
“I used to be at all times very grateful for the life that music gave me,” Mr. Barry said in a promotional video for the book. “And if my later life may be rewarded to me by the literary business, that might be magnificent.” With a smile, he added, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with the remainder of my life for those who don’t like my writing.”