"Twist" Writer Ballard Dies

R&B legend succumbs to cancer

March 3, 2003 12:00 AM ET

Legendary R&B singer and songwriter Hank Ballard died Sunday at his Los Angeles home after suffering from throat cancer; according to birth records, which differ from his official biographical information, he was seventy-five.

Ballard, born John H. Kendricks in Detroit, formed his first doo-wop group while a teenager working on the Ford assembly lines. He was discovered in the early Fifties by the writer and producer Johnny Otis and became frontman for the notoriously naughty Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. With songs like "Finger Poppin' Time," "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and the million-seller "Work With Me Annie," the group scored a half-dozen R&B and pop hits in the Fifties and Sixties, even though some of its tracks were banned from radio.

Still, he was best known for writing "The Twist," which he recorded and released in 1958, a year before Chubby Checker's version became a hit and launched a dance craze.

Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »