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[–] cynicaloldfart 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

The original recording of the song remained an enduring hit single for much of the 1950s, and it is now considered to be one of the definitive doo-wop songs. In 2005, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, deeming it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important."

The Penguins—composed of lead vocalist Cleveland Duncan, bass Curtis Williams, tenor Dexter Tisby, and baritone Bruce Tate—formed at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, California in 1953. The group named themselves after the Kool cigarette advertising mascot, a penguin named Willie (the group was originally called The Flywheels). Vocally, the song is more complex, and it took The Penguins about six months to work it out. The lead is by their tenor, Cleveland Duncan, who delivers a suitably dramatic reading backed by second tenor Dexter Tisby and baritone Bruce Tate echoing the refrain while Curtis Williams added various gasps and other vocalizations.

"Earth Angel" was recorded as a literal garage demo—it was recorded in a home garage at the Los Angeles home of Ted Brinson (a relative of Williams who had previously played bass for the Jimmie Lunceford and Andy Kirk bands). The garage was used as the primary recording space of Dootsie Williams for all of his Dootone artists. It was recorded on a single-track Ampex tape recorder, owned by big band veteran Ted Brinson, who performs bass guitar on the track. The drums were muffled with pillows so as to not overwhelm the vocals. A neighbor's pet dog stopped many takes by barking. "Everytime the dog barked next door, I'd have to go out and shut him up, and then we'd do another take," remembered Williams.

The composition of this song has a strange and convoluted history which came under scrutiny after it proved to be a lucrative hit. Doing forensics on the songwriter credits was up to a judge, and complicated by the fact that Curtis Williams sold the song to a publisher. A singer-songwriter named Jesse Belvin composed the first version of this song. He was asked to stand up and sing his version of the song in court, which convinced the judge that he deserved some, but not all of the songwriting credit. The judge ended up awarding the credits to Belvin, Curtis Williams and Gaynell Hodge.

Counting up every version of this song, you arrive at over 30 million copies sold, making it the top R&B record of all time in terms of continuous popularity. This gives the Penguins the dubious honor of the one-hit wonders who had the biggest hit.