One Song/Three Versions – Ruby Baby

Note: The Springsteen series will continue (and finish) in a few days. In the meantime, One song/three versions:

“Ruby Baby” was originally recorded by The Drifters way back in 1956. Despite my love for early rock and roll and doo-wop, I never heard this song (to my recollection) until Donald Fagen of Steely Dan released his version some 25 years later. The song was written by Lieber and Stoller, a great songwriting duo who penned a number of hits.

I got a girl and Ruby is her name 
Ruby Ruby Ruby Baby
She don’t love me but I love her just the same

The Drifters, a ’50’s R&B/doo-wop group, had the first hit with this. Dion later covered it and had an even bigger hit. I’ll go with the Drifters here because A) they did it first and B) my wife and I actually saw them live this past New Year’s Eve. Or at least the latest incarnation of them. Great show with all their hits (“Under the Boardwalk,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,”) etc.

Well each time I see you, baby my heart cries
Well I’m gonna steal you away from all those guys
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, from the sunny day I met ya
I made a bet that I would get ya
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby when will you be mine?

Fagen’s version is totally reconstructed. Jazzy, swinging, I think that, of the three, this is my favorite. I like the use of the backup singers and the nice piano solo. Allmusic says the album is “crafted with impeccable style and sophistication.” And without, I think, losing an ounce of funkiness.

Icelandic singer Bjork actually recorded this as well. It’s a jazzy version, like Fagen’s, but more upbeat. I find her voice to be an acquired taste. But she is mega-popular, more so I think in Europe, and so I wanted to get her on these pages. Plus she dares to be different and I like that.

Oh, Ruby Ruby how I want ya>
Like a ghost I’m
Gonna haunt ya
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby when will you be mine?

6 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Ruby Baby

  1. I didn’t know the Drifters recorded Ruby Baby first. I really like their version but I am still partial to Dion’s version back in 1963. He had a big hit with Ruby Baby and I think it started his music career. Not sure though. I found Ruby Baby with Dion singing in front of a big band.

    I also really enjoyed Bjork’s version as well and I agree, I love that she sets no boundaries for herself with her music. Donald Fagen’s was a little too slow for me probably because the only version I knew of was Dion’s upbeat recording of Ruby Baby.


  2. Yeah, as far as an early doo-wop version, I’m torn between Dion and Drifters. In fact, in my first draft I used Dion’s version. Then I realized my own (self-imposed) rule that I’d always use the original version in the “One song” posts. Plus it was a good way to sneak in our Drifters concert. 🙂

    I can see how Fagen’s would seem slow. Once you hear the first version of something it’s hard to not hear it. But I like his album and have it scheduled for a Featured Album post one day.

    Bjork is definitely an odd character. I don’t listen to a lot of her stuff. But if she shows up on Sirius or Pandora, I’ll usually give a listen. And I continue to be amazed at how artists completely reinterpret songs.


    1. Yeah, I got your music message. 🙂 I am glad you did put the Drifters version in because I wouldn’t have known about their recording of Ruby Baby. If I had heard the Drifters first, I probably would’ve been partial to their version.


  3. Liking that Donald Fagen version. Steely Dan (his earlier band, as you probably know 🙂 are one of my favourites, especially the earlier years, even though Aja is amazing. Speaking of early RnB/Doo-wop/Rock ‘n’ Roll, I just got Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Vol 1 and 2 recently (from 1961-62) Extraordinary albums…


  4. Yes, the Dan just missed my Top Ten album list. I made up for it by putting the ‘Citizen’ box set in the next batch. Who the hell does or has done anything even remotely like them? Jazzy chord progressions along with the strangest lyrics this side of Zappa and awesome guitar work. My go-to album for the beach or driving down the Eastern Seaboard of the US.

    I have a box set of Ray Charles from the Atlantic records years. Another upcoming post. The man could do no wrong.


  5. Agree. I don’t have the Citizen box set, but I own everything from Can’t Buy a Thrill to Aja. They’re one of the few acts that have a perfect discography, in that none of their albums are any less than brilliant.


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