Bobby Lewis, the R&B singer behind “Tossin’ and Turnin’” — one of the biggest hits of the early Sixties — died in late April at the age of 95.
Billboard confirmed Lewis’ death Saturday, nearly two months after the singer died after a bout with pneumonia.
The Indianapolis-born singer is best known for the original version of “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” which he recorded in the fall of 1960; in the summer of 1961, the single began a seven-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100. “Tossin’ and Turnin’” was also named Billboard’s Number One single of 1961, besting songs like Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and Elvis Presley’s “Surrender.”
In 2019, Rolling Stone placed “Tossin’ and Turnin’” at Number One on our list celebrating the 20 Biggest Songs of the Summer: The 1960s, acknowledging its lengthy reign atop the Hot 100 and its 3 million copies sold.
“Tossin’ and Turnin’” would later be covered by artists like the Supremes, the Kingsmen, the Marvelettes and Kiss’ Peter Criss and feature in early Sixties paeans like National Lampoon’s Animal House and American Graffiti.
Despite the success of the track, Lewis would only release one more Top 10 single during his career, 1961’s “One Track Mind”; both singles were released on Beltone Records, which folded by 1963. Lewis recorded one single on the ABC-Paramount label (“Stark Raving Wild”) before his recording career came to a halt.
In a 2011 interview with NJ.com, Lewis, then nearly blind and living in Newark, New Jersey, reflected on the song’s history and its enduring legacy.
“American Graffiti kept it going. When it came out in Animal House, I took my tape recorder to the theater. I wished I had a video camera. I taped it off the screen. What a beautiful scene — John Belushi in a garage all by himself, just sittin’ and listenin’ to ‘Tossin’ and Turnin’,'” Lewis said.
“They never stopped playing it. They haven’t stopped yet. They’re still playing it.”