DEAR JERRY: I was very pleased to come across the write-up about “Wooden Heart” in your column. A number of my friends saw it and commented about it.
Through the years, the song has surprised me many times, both by articles about it and where the song has been most recently aired on oldies stations. So, it continues to be a faithful songfriend. Thanks for taking the time to share with your readers a little history about the three who have recorded [hit versions of] “Wooden Heart.”
A buddy of mine has challenged me with what I think is an exciting idea: to re-record “Wooden Heart” with a totally fresh, new sound for its 40th anniversary in 2001. Paul even came up with a good publicity phrase: “2001: a Song's Odyssey. The 40th Anniversary of Wooden Heart.” Naturally, it refers to the year when the song went to No. 1 in the United States, August, 1961.
This opportunity won't come along again. I certainly don't want to wait 10 more years for the song's 50th Anniversary! So I'm going let out all the musical stops and begin making plans now. Fortunately, we have plenty of time to arrange and produce the record. I hope to release it nationally at the beginning of 2000. The song will feature a more contemporary drum sound and much more energy. Yet it will not attempt to rock too much. It still must sound like “Wooden Heart.” But my voice has changed greatly since I was 21, so that alone will help make the song sound much different.
Perhaps we could stay in touch over the next year and a half. Since you have done much in helping keep the song and my name in front of the public, when we finish the final version of the record in the studio, I will make a cassette and send it to you.
Thanks again for the honor of appearing in your record column. It brought back some wonderful memories. It was really fun to see how “Wooden Heart” beat a hit for three different singers.
Joe Dowell, Bloomington, Ill.
DEAR JOE: Thank you for writing and especially for the nice comments. A redo of “Wooden Heart” sounds like a wonderful idea. I can't wait to hear the result. Please write again and let me know of your progress.
Now, here's another aspect of the “Wooden Heart” story:
In all the years, however, I have never read or heard the English translation of the German words. Is there any chance you can provide such a translation?
David Demetrius, Hereford, Md.
DEAR DAVID: I cannot translate it but I can provide it. For the translation, we turn to Dieter Boek, a music-loving friend in Germany. Dieter writes:
“We living in Germany have often been asked if the German lyrics in ‘Wooden Heart’ are the same as we hear in English, in the other verses. Partly, but other portions are quite different and totally unrelated to the meaning of the song. You'll see what I mean:
Muss i denn, muss i denn (must I then, must I then)
Zum stadtele hinaus, stadtele hinaus (go out to town, out to town)
Und du mein schatz bleibst hier (and you my darling [love] stay here
Sei mir gut, sei mir gut (treat me good [nice], treat me good)
Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst (treat me like you really should)
Wie du wirklich sollst (like you really should)
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart.”
IZ ZAT SO? Joe Dowell is not the only one to see the potential in “Wooden Heart,” but he is the one with the hit. Others that recorded it in 1961 and didn't do quite so well are Gus Backus, Dave Kennedy & the Ambassadors, Li'l Wally, Bobbi Martin, Pee Wee King, and Kenny Kotwitz. There is even an answer song, “You Don't Have a Wooden Heart,” by Linda Hall.
If you're wondering why Elvis' version isn't mentioned, then you obviously missed the first letter on this topic, please click here to read it:
July 5, 1999 Column