In the large and colorful story behind the song "Louie Louie," Dorothy Berry holds a very special role that few journalists have ever explored. As pop music historians tend to spotlight the supposedly "unintelligible" lyrics spouted off by the hit-making Kingsmen, few have ever explored the motivating romantic forces behind this calypso-inspired ballad.
When author Richard Berry wrote the song, he combined romantic images of a distant love with a catchy Caribbean-inspired musical riff. At the time he wrote this song, he was involved in a romantic relationship with a beautiful girl from his old high school by the name of Dorothy Adams. As he wrote the lyrics "a fine little girl- she waits for me," it’s not unlikely that he was inspired by his teenage sweetheart. When they decided they would get married, Richard raised money for the wedding by selling one of his prize jewels. Richard sold the publishing rights to "Louie Louie" and other songs for $750, and unknowingly made rock and roll history. Who would have ever guessed this song would have taken on such a life of it’s own? Certainly not Richard or Dorothy?
Richard and Dorothy Berry married in 1957, raising two children, Pam and Marcel. Their marriage lasted over ten years, ending in 1968. Inspired by her husband’s musical talents, Dorothy pursued her own path in the music business, beginning as a singer for the girl group, The Idols in the early 1960s. As she gained more expertise as a lead singer, Dorothy Berry was soon groomed as a solo artist, recording for such labels as Garpax, Challenge, Little Star, and Tangerine. After working with a variety of different projects with such artists as Solomon Burke, the Righteous Brothers, and David Gates, Dorothy Berry was offered an opportunity to join Ray Charles as a Raelette. With a chance o see the world with one of the most successful recording artists of all time, Dorothy joined up with Ray Charles to sing on-stage and in the studio.
In the early 1980s, Dorothy decided she had spent enough time on the road and retired from the Ray Charles band. After one particular tour in the Middle East, where she witnessed the consequences of war in Lebanon, Dorothy came home to America, noticeably shaken by what she had seen. Horrified by the ravages of war, Dorothy wrote a song she called "The World Needs Peace."
When she was ready to do something with this song, she turned to her dear friend, ex-husband Richard Berry. Richard loved the song, and agreed to sing it with her as a duet. The song was released as a 45 single that somehow got ignored by radio stations, and languished in obscurity.
In the late 80’s, Richard re-recorded the song as "What We Need," releasing it as one of three songs on a gospel 12" record on the Blessed label. On this version of the song, all six of his children provided back-up harmony vocals.
Now, almost twenty years after its initial release, and three years after Richard’s death, this song is just as relevant today as the day it was written. In light of current events, Dorothy Berry and the Richard Berry estate has agreed to allow these songs to be shared with others as MP3 files on the LouieLouie.Net website.
This song has been made available for free to the public on a limited basis to promote peace in our lifetimes. This song cannot be distributed on any commercial product without the express permission of Dorothy Berry.
Dorothy Berry is definitely a part of the upcoming documentary, "THE MEANING OF LOUIE."
If you have any interest in licensing this song for any special projects, or have any other comments, send an email to Eric Predoehl