"The Loco-Motion" is a 1962 pop song written by American songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. "The Loco-Motion" was originally written for Dee Dee Sharp, but Sharp turned the song down. The song is notable for appearing in the American Top 5 three times, each time in a different decade: in 1962 by the American pop singer Little Eva (U.S. No. 1); in 1974 by the American band Grand Funk Railroad (also U.S. No. 1); and finally in 1988 by the Australian singer Kylie Minogue (U.S. No. 3).
The song is a popular and enduring example of the dance-song genre: much of the lyrics are devoted to a description of the dance itself, usually performed as a type of line dance. However, the song came before the dance.
"The Loco-Motion" was also the second song to reach No. 1 by two different musical acts in America. The earlier song to do this was "Go Away Little Girl", also written by Goffin and King. It is one of only nine songs to achieve this feat.
Eva Narcissus Boyd (June 29, 1943 – April 10, 2003), known by the stage name of Little Eva, was an American pop singer. Although some sources claim that her stage name was inspired by a character from the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, she stated in an interview that she was named after her aunt, which prompted her family to call her "Little Eva."
Boyd was born in Belhaven, North Carolina in 1945 and had twelve siblings. At the age of fifteen she moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, she worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd's particular dancing style, so they wrote "The Loco-Motion" for her and had her record it as a demo (the record was intended for Dee Dee Sharp). However, as King said in an interview with NPR and in her "One to One" concert video, they knew she could sing when they met her, and it would be just a matter of time before they would have her record songs they wrote, the most successful being "The Loco-Motion." Music producer Don Kirshner of Dimension Records was impressed by the song and Boyd's voice and had it released. The song reached #1 in the United States in 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. After the success of "The Loco-Motion," Boyd was stereotyped as a dance-craze singer and was given limited material.
The same year, Goffin and King wrote "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" (performed by the Crystals) after discovering that Boyd was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When they inquired why she tolerated such treatment, Eva replied without batting an eyelid that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her.
Phil Spector's arrangement of the song was ominous and ambiguous.
It was a brutal song, as any attempt to justify such violence must be, and Spector's arrangement only amplified its savagery, framing Barbara Alston's lone vocal amid a sea of caustic strings and funereal drums, while the backing vocals almost trilled their own belief that the boy had done nothing wrong. In more ironic hands (and a more understanding age), 'He Hit Me' might have passed at least as satire. But Spector showed no sign of appreciating that, nor did he feel any need to. No less than the song's writers, he was not preaching, he was merely documenting.
— Dave Thompson
Boyd's other single recordings were "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby," "Let's Turkey Trot," and a remake of the Bing Crosby standard "Swinging on a Star," recorded with Big Dee Irwin (though Boyd was not credited on the label). Boyd also recorded the song "Makin' With the Magilla" for an episode of the 1964 Hanna-Barbera cartoon series The Magilla Gorilla Show.
In 1963, American Bandstand signed her with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars national U.S. tour and she was set to perform for the tour's 15th show scheduled for the night of November 22, 1963 at the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas when suddenly the Friday evening event was cancelled moments after U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while touring Dallas in an open car caravan.
She continued to tour and record throughout the sixties, but her commercial potential plummeted after 1964. She retired from the music industry in 1971. She never owned the rights to her recordings. Although the prevailing rumor in the 1970s was that she had received only $50 for "The Loco-Motion," it seems $50 was actually her weekly salary at the time she made her records (an increase of $15 from what Goffin and King had been paying her as nanny). Penniless, she returned with her three young children to North Carolina, where they lived in obscurity.
Interviewed in 1988 after the success of the Kylie Minogue recording of "The Loco-Motion", Boyd stated that she did not like the new version; however, its then-current popularity allowed her to make a comeback in show business.
She returned to live performing with other artists of her era on the cabaret and oldies circuits. She also occasionally recorded new songs.
The only existing footage of Little Eva performing "Loco-Motion" is a small clip from the ABC 1960s live show Shindig! wherein she sang a short version of the clip along with the famous dance steps. She also sang "Let's Turkey Trot" and the Exciters' song "I Want You to Be My Boy" in the same episode. This TV show was one of her final performances until 1988, when she began performing in concerts with Bobby Vee and other singers. In a 1991 Richard Nader concert, she performed "Loco-Motion" and "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby". The concert was partially documented on videotape, albeit of marginal quality.
She continued performing until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2001. She died on April 10, 2003 in Kinston, North Carolina, at the age of 59, and is buried in a small cemetery in Belhaven, North Carolina. Her gravesite was sparsely marked until July 2008, when a report by WRAL-TV of Raleigh, North Carolina highlighted deteriorating conditions at the cemetery and efforts by the city of Belhaven to have it restored. A simple white cross had marked the site until a new gravestone was unveiled in November of that year. Her new grey gravestone has the image of a steam locomotive prominently engraved on the front and the epitaph reads: "Singing with the Angels"
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"