Barbara Lewis’ farewell singing performance Friday in Savannah Center was a rocking, sentimental and sometimes tearful blast.
“I feel like I’m dying because I love to sing and I won’t be singing anymore,” Lewis, 74, said. “But I’m so happy to be here tonight with my friends — especially Rocky and the Rollers.”
The show included La La Brooks of the Crystals, Jay Siegel’s Tokens and Brian Hyland. Lewis sang her Top 10 hits from the 1960s: “Baby I’m Yours,” “Hello Stranger” and “Make Me Your Baby.” She got down into an R&B groove on “Shame Shame Shame;” pulled out a harmonica and wailed on a blues riff.
Gerry “Rocky” Seader, leader of Rocky and The Rollers, looks like a tough guy but he was a big, soft-hearted teddy bear in bidding his close friend and fellow performer adieu.
“This night is tough because Barbara and I have been playing together about 35 years,” he said backstage, before the show billed as “Rocky’s Rock and Roll All-Stars.”
“What makes Barbara so special is her voice,” Seader added. “Barbara is a true professional and a special lady to all of us. We love her.”
“I’ve known Barbara since I was a teenager singing with the Crystals,” added La La Brooks, 69. “She was like an older sister to me. She watched over me on the road. I was very moved to see Barbara tonight. It was a special moment.”
On stage, Rocky helped honor Lewis with a bouquet of flowers. Seader and all the performers — along with singer Al Morse, the Rollers and DJ Al Brady — came out to salute and serenade Lewis at the end of the concert. They all seemed to shed a few tears joining together to sing: “Goodnight Sweetheart” as Lewis sat and listened.
Health issues have forced Lewis to stop performing. She lives in Orlando and asked Rocky if she could do her final show with him.
“Rocky has been so good to me over the years and I wanted this last show to be with him,” Lewis said. “I’m happy people remember me. I still get letters from fans all over the world. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that those fans still give me their love.”
This was a night to share the love of rock and roll.
Dolores “ La La” Brooks opened up the show with a rousing set. She was with the Crystals back in the 1960s, the first girl group Phil Spector produced.
Brooks, who also appeared on Broadway in the ‘60s’ musical “Hair” started off her set with the Crystals’ “Then I Kissed Him.”
“I started with the Crystals when I was 13 years old,” she said. “I was 15 when we had our first hit with Phil Spector.”
She sang another Spector standard, “Be My Baby,” originally done by the Ronettes and then did another classic Crystals’ rocker, “Da do ron ron.”
Then, Brooks closed the set with a rollicking version of “Proud Mary,” straight out of Ike and Tina Turner.
She raced down from the stage, ran across the front isle and made some wild, gyrating dance moves with Villager Vic Dunphy.
“I loved dancing with La La,” Dunphy said. “I couldn’t get down as low as she did, but it was fun.”
“He was thrilled to be dancing with La La,” said his wife, Wanda. “He’s always dancing, I can’t stop him.”
Brian Hyland is known for his novelty hit, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini.” But he is far more talented that that song.
Hyland opened his set with a rocking cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Then he performed a couple of his hits: “The Joker Went Wild,” “Gypsy Woman” and “Sealed With a Kiss.”
The highlight, though, came near the end of Hyland’s set when he offered a blistering mash-up of such rock classics as “Slow Down,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Keep a Knockin’” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
After it was over, Hyland pointed at the audience and said: “Tonight The Villages is Rock City.”
Jay Siegel’s Tokens started in Brooklyn and opened with the doo-wop flavored, “Tonight I Fell In Love.” Next was a ballad, “Please Write” followed by a romantic number, “Portrait of My Love.”
The big song, though, was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a hit for the Tokens in 1962.
It became a hit all over again after “The Lion King” movie.
“My granddaughter was in kindergarten back when the movie came out,” Siegel said. “She told the kids that her grandpa sang the song, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight.’
Nobody believed her, so one day, during show and tell, I went to her class to sing the song. The kids loved it.”
So it goes in rock and roll – a musical art-form filled with people and stories. Barbara Lewis is one of them and she left more than a few memories for those who care about the music.
“Barbara’s changed; we all change, but she still has the voice” said “Hollywood” Astacio, a fan who came to the concert with his own autograph poster, which he wanted Lewis to sign. “I love her music. It’s great to be here and see her sing.”
Lewis is ready to move on with her life.
“We all get older and our bodies break down and we can’t do what we used to do,” Lewis said. “But the music still matters and the fans still care – I’ll always have that, and it means so much to me.”