Shirelles, The

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Shirelles, The

Shirelles, The, pioneering girl group of the 1960s; Shirley Owens (b. June 10, 1941), Beverly Lee (b. Aug. 3, 1941), Doris Coley (b. Aug. 2, 1941; d. Sacramento, Calif. Feb. 4, 2000), and Addie “Micki” Harris (b. Jan. 22, 1940; d. Atlanta, Ga. June 10, 1982), all born in Passaic, N. J.

Formed in 1957 while Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Doris Coley, and Addie “Micki” Harris were in high school in Passaic, N. J., The Shirelles were convinced to record for Florence Greenberg’s tiny Tiara label. Their first recording, “I Met Him on a Sunday (Ronde, Ronde),” written by the four, became a moderate pop hit when leased to Decca Records in 1958. Florence Greenberg and songwriter Luther Dixon subsequently formed Scepter Records. With Greenberg as manager and Dixon as producer, The Shirelles scored a minor hit in 1959 with “Dedicated to the One I Love,” written by Lowman Pauling of The Five Royales. In 1960, “Tonight’s the Night,” cowritten by Owens and Dixon, became a moderate pop and major rhythm-and-blues hit. Their next single included as its B-side “Boys,” later recorded by The Beatles, and their subsequent single, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, became a top pop and smash R&B hit. The song’s success established the Scepter label and made The Shirelles one of the most popular girl groups of the early 1960s.

In 1961, The Shirelles scored pop and rhythm-and-blues smashes with “Dedicated to the One I Love” (upon re-release) and “Mama Said,” coauthored by Dixon. After the major pop hit “Big John” (a smash R&B hit), the group achieved smash crossover hits with “Baby It’s You,” written by Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Bernie Williams, and the maudlin “Soldier Boy,” co-written by Dixon and Greenberg. “Welcome Home Baby” and “Everybody Loves a Lover” became major pop and R&B hits, and were followed by the crossover smash “Foolish Little Girl,” coauthored by Neil Seda-ka’s songwriting partner Howie Greenfield. After their final major pop hit, “Don’t Say Goodnight and Mean Goodbye,” The Shirelles worked on the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Their minor 1964 crossover hit “Sha-La-La” soon became a major hit for England’s Manfred Mann.

Luther Dixon subsequently left Scepter for Capitol Records and The Shirelles never again scored a major hit. Doris Coley, by then Doris Kenner, left the group in 1968 and the remaining three attempted a comeback on RCA Records in the early 1970s. In 1975, Kenner returned, as Shirley Owens, by then Shirley Alston, left for a solo career. Micki Harris, Beverly Lee, and Doris Kenner toured as The Shirelles in the early 1980s, but, on June 10, 1982, Harris died of a heart attack at the age of 42 after a performance in Atlanta. The three surviving original members subsequently agreed that each could assemble groups using The Shirelles’ name. The Shirelles were given the Heritage award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Kenner died of breast cancer in early 2000.

Discography

the shirelles : Tonight’s the Night (1960); Sing to Trumpets and Strings (1961); Baby It’s You (1962); Foolish Little Girl (1963); Sing Their Songs in the Great Movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and Others (1963); Sing Golden Oldies (1964); Spontaneous Combustion (1967); Happy and in Love (1971); The Shirelles (1972). the shirelles and king curtis : Give a Twist Party (1962); Eternally Soul (1968). shirley alston: Shirley Alston (1976). lady rose (shirley alston): Lady Rose (1977); Sings The Shirelles’ Greatest Hits (1977).

—Brock Helander