Over time there has been some confusion between the songs—Earth Angel and Teen Angel. However, Teen Angel has a more colorful, checkered, controversial past.
The song Teen Angel was released in October, 1959. Written by Jean Dinning and sung by her brother, Mark, it was banned from a number of American radio stations and the BBC because it was too “gruesome”.
However, teenagers made it number one on the charts in February, 1960. If you are curious what “gruesome” meant to adults back then, listen for yourself.
Perhaps, adults did not want to face the reality that teenagers do die unexpectedly and tragically on this planet traversing the cosmos. With World War II and the Korean Conflict fresh in mind where so many 18 and 19 year old men had lost their lives, a song about the tragic death of a teenager did not sit too well with adults.
The song has sold 2.5 million copies. However, questions about the message of the song remain. The song raises some perplexing questions about why.
Why did this sixteen year old girl race back to the stalled car on the railroad tracks? Was it the class ring of her boyfriend that she raced to retrieve? A class ring given as a pledge of young love holds a special place in a young woman’s heart. Why didn’t her young man do all that he could to stop her flight to certain tragedy? We only have his account of what happened.
Jean Dinning was one of nine children born in Oklahoma on March 29, 1924. Along with her sisters, Lou, Dolores, and Ginger, they went to sing nationally on the radio in movies, and on television. Their melodious harmony and perfect pitch were amazing as well as being lovely and wholesome women.
Her brother Mark died in 1986. Jean passed from the confines of the earth on February 22, 2011.
Perhaps, the Dinning Family will once again sing their songs in the cosmic ocean. For truly, the Dinning songs must have a place somewhere out there where singing is a reality beyond our mortal comprehension.
Mark “Max” Dinning Teen Angel
The Dinning Sisters: Once In A While (1950); You’re A Character Dear and I Can’t Forget You
Earth Angel: The Penguins 1954
G. D. Williams © 2011