In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
The biggest hit of 1961 is about being in a state of such romantic desperation that you can’t even sleep: “I kicked the blankets on the floor / Turned my pillow upside-down.” But “Tossin’ And Turnin'” doesn’t sound stressed or sad or sleep-deprived. Instead, it’s jubilant: a frantic and half-drunk hard-R&B pound with one of the most deliriously fun saxophone solos of an era that wasn’t exactly short on deliriously fun saxophone solos.
Bobby Lewis, an R&B singer with roots in both Indianapolis and Detroit, didn’t become a star on the back of “Tossin’ And Turnin’,” a song that Fireflies frontman Ritchie Adams wrote with Jackie Wilson in mind. Lewis only had one more hit after “Tossin’ And Turnin’,” which is a hell of a statement about the mercilessness of the music business. But with “Tossin’ And Turnin’,” Lewis left a mark, gifting the world with history’s greatest insomnia-themed party anthem.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s the Replacements covering “Tossin’ And Turnin'” on the B-side of their 1987 single “The Ledge”: