Swinging Sweet ’63: A Soirée of Sister Soul

As you may know by now, Girl Group and Femme Soul songs are my bible. My first Astrology lecture is dedicated to this particular genre of music and how it unfolded around the Virgo maiden archetype during the 1960’s. Critically ignored by the dominance of white male musicians and music critics, the “girl group” genre continues to deserve excavation as a time capsule of a splendid flashpoint in American Culture along lines of gender, race, sexuality, sexual orientation and class.

the-royalettes-1960s-chancellor-records-fan-club-card-baltiomore-girl-group-67217e02d218a84b86cffbb19873519dMore or less the undisputed peak of the Girl Group phenomenon was 1963. While the march of matrons of music had long been gathering steam, the snowball that started in late 1957 found itself graduating to some big money earning leagues by the fourth year of the 1960’s.

Gerry Goffin (yes, Mr. Goffin & King) was once quoted as saying “In the 60’s, God was a young black girl who could sing.” If you look at the Billboard Hot 100 (Nevermind the Billboard R&B Charts) you could see his theory in practice. It was the year that saw the Top 40 dominated by efforts by now classic group names that asserted femininity. From “He’s So Fine” to “It’s My Party” to “Da Do Ran Ran” to “Heatwave” to “Be My Baby” to “My Boyfriend’s Back” to “Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby” to “Sally Go ‘Round The Roses” and beyond.

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The Supremes, 1963

As stalwarts from the turn of the decade like The Shirelles, Marvelettes and Chantels saw their fortunes wane, they passed the torch onto folks like The Chiffons, Martha & The Vandellas, the newly emboldened Crystals, The Orlons, The Jaynettes and The Ronettes. Solo stars that embraced the girl group ethos made inroads as well, as Mary Wells continued her reign as the current queen of soul while being challenged by new starlets like Dionne Warwick and Doris Troy. Legends in the marking like The Supremes FINALLY landed their first top 40 hit, Patti LaBelle and her Bluebelles moved away from their plagiarizing controversy and struck gold with showtunes.

Among those memorable names, there’s dozens of names that graced the charts but don’t stick in our minds more than 50 years later. Beyond that, there’s many efforts that may have had a localized impact in our days before global homogenized stardom, but didn’t make the national news. Then there’s a the deeper layer of digging in on album tracks for those groups lucky to get beyond a brace of singles and unreleased at the time efforts.

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The Percells

So I went through my digital jukebox and picked out some of my favorites from that year before the end of the Camelot fantasy shifted music tastes away from the proto-feminist and Black femme centered storylines that have inspired those on both sides of the speaker for the better part of half a century.

For that reason, I’ve focused on Black Women exclusively, and ignored some pretty big hit making women like Lesley Gore, whose breakthrough hit “It’s My Party” was originally recorded by girl group shadow legend and session singer Barbara Jean English.

Like Gore’s big hit, often a lot of efforts by white girl groups at the time started life in the hands of Black women that didn’t get as easy a shot at stardom. To honor the brilliant work and labor of Black women that year, we’ll be centering their gems. I got to 30, then found myself at 40, and now I’m capping myself and you at 50 gems that’ll groove you like having a hairspray high.

Enjoy.

 

1) Maureen Gray – Summertime Is Near
2) The Sparkles – We’ve Got It
3) The Shirelles – Tonight You’re Gonna Fall In Love With Me
4) Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles – Love Me Just A Little
5) Mary Wells – One Block From Heaven
6) The Crystals – Heartbreaker
7) The Orlons – Something’s Got A Hold On Me
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The Velvelettes

8) The Velvelettes – Mama Please

9) Lorraine & The Socialites – Any Old Way
10) Diane Christian – Has Anyone Seen My Boyfriend?
11) Barbara and The Delights – Shirley Got There Early
12) The Marvelettes – Dance A While, Cry A While
13) Carolyn Crawford – Forget About Me
14) Sylvia Shemwell – He’ll Come Back
15) Linda Hopkins – Memories And A Broken Heart
16) Maxine Brown – Yesterday’s Kisses
17) The Elektras – It Ain’t Easy
18) The Fashions – Why Don’t You Stay A Little Longer?
19) The Ribbons – After Last Night
20) The Percells – He’s The Greatest
21) The Castanets – I Love Him
22) The Ronettes – I Wonder
23) The Victorians – What Makes Little Girls Cry?
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The Avons

24) Barbara George – Something’s Definitely Wrong

25) Kim Weston – Build Him Up
26) Etta James – Payback
27) The Supremes – I’ll Love You More Than Yesterday
28) Judy Clay – Let It Be Me
29) Cecily Blair – This Is My Vow
30) Kenni Woods – Can’t He Take A Hint?
31) Ruby & The Romantics – Two Different Worlds
32) Carole Quinn – Good Boy Gone Bad
33) The Royalettes – Blue Summer
34) The Charmaines – Goodbye Baby, Goodbye
35) Irma Thomas – Hittin’ On Nothin’
36) The Avons – Push A Little Harder
37) The Sherrys – Saturday Night
38) The Gems – Let Your Hair Down
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The Chiffons

39) The Chiffons – ABC, 123

40) The Crayons featuring Yvonne Carroll – Love At First Sight
41) The Bobbettes – Close Your Eyes
42) Wynona Carr – Carrying A Torch
43) Carla Thomas – What A Fool I’ve Been
44) Candy & The Kisses – A Good Cry
45) The Cookies – Only To Other People
46) Birdie Green – Get A Hold Of Yourself
47) Dionne Warwick – Make The Music Play
48) Martha & The Vandellas – This is When I Need You Most
49) The Four J’s – Will You Be My Love?
50) The Fran-Cettes – Late In The Evening
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