Dead Man’s Curve – Jan & Dean | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#8); 1964

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

The saying goes that art often imitates life, yet, in the tragic case of Jan Berry, life imitated art. Jan and high school buddy Dean Torrence teamed up with Arnie Ginsberg, and adjourned to a makeshift recording setup in Jan’s garage where they crafted Jennie Lee, inspired by a local stripper. Released by “Jan & Arnie” (Dean was in the Army Reserves), Jennie Lee bumped to #8 in 1958. After Dean’s return, he and Jan reached #10 in 1959 with Baby Talk. Four years later, Surf City put them on the map permanently. In 1963 Jan and LA deejay Roger Christian co-penned a song inspired by a dangerous stretch of Sunset Boulevard known as Dead Man’s Curve. The song – featuring Roger’s XKE and Jan’s Stingray – peaked at #8 in May of 1964. On April 19, 1966, Jan slammed his Corvette into a parked truck on Dead Man’s Curve, suffering severe brain damage. After years of rehabilitation, Jan returned to performing until his death on March 26, 2004; exactly 40 years after Dead Man’s Curve entered the Top 40.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Jan Berry for Screen Gems, Inc.

Lyrics Written by:

  • Jan Berry
  • Roger Christian
  • Brian Wilson
  • Artie Kornfeld