The Shirelles were a highly acclaimed and influential girl group that became famous during the early 1960s. Their many hits include such oldies classics as "Dedicated To The One I Love," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Baby It's You," and "Soldier Boy." With their trademark innocent schoolgirl sound and unique blend of pop, R&B, doo-wop, and soul, The Shirelles are widely considered to be the originator of the girl group genre and were one of the top era-defining acts of their day.
Formed in 1957 in Passaic, New Jersey, the group consisted of high school classmates Shirley Owens, Doris Coley (August 2, 1941 - February 4, 2000), Addie "Micki" Harris (January 22, 1940 - June 10, 1982), and Beverly Lee. First known as the Poquellos, the foursome entered a talent show at Passaic High School where they gave an a cappella performance of a song they had written, "I Met Him On A Sunday," which impressed a fellow classmate whose mother, Florence Greenberg, owned Tiara Records. The group was signed to the label soon thereafter and renamed The Shirelles. During their peak commercial fame from 1960-1963, The Shirelles worked with producer and songwriter Luther Dixon who co-wrote "Tonights The Night," "Mama Said," "Soldier Boy," and many of the group's other hits. The Shirelles also had hits by such top songwriting teams as Gerry Goffin/Carole King, Burt Bacharach/Hal David, and Helen Miller/Howard Greenfield. Shirley Owens, who co-wrote "Tonights The Night" with Dixon, served as the lead singer on most of the group's best known songs, with Doris Coley occasionally taking the lead.
The Shirelles debuted on the Pop/Rock charts in 1958 with a professionally recorded version of the song they had performed at their school's talent show, "I Met Him On A Sunday (Ronde-Ronde)," which became a minor hit. The group had another minor hit the following year with a cover of the "5" Royales' "Dedicated To The One I Love," in which Doris Coley provided the lead vocals. This song later became a Top 5 hit upon its re-release in 1961. The Shirelles' fame began to take off in 1960 with "Tonights The Night" which became the first of a long string of hits to make the Top 40 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1960), "Dedicated To The One I Love" (1961), "Mama Said" (1961), "A Thing Of The Past" (1961), "Big John" (1961), "Baby It's You" (1961), "Soldier Boy" (1962), "Welcome Home Baby" (1962), "Everybody Loves A Lover" (1962), and "Foolish Little Girl" (1963). Released in late 1960, the Gerry Goffin/Carole King-penned "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" topped the Billboard Hot 100 the following year, making The Shirelles the first all-female group of the rock era to ever have a #1 hit on the Pop/Rock charts. They later also topped the Pop/Rock charts in 1962 with "Soldier Boy." The Shirelles' many hits, which continued through 1967 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts, also included "Don't Say Goodnight And Mean Goodbye" (1963), "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963, from the epic comedy movie of the same name), and "Last Minute Miracle" (1967). The Shirelles had one final entry in 1970 on the Pop/Rock charts with the minor hit, "There Goes My Baby/Be My Baby."
The Shirelles' legions of fans included such greats as John Lennon who, at one time, declared this group to be his favorite. The famed vocal quartet was honored in 1994 by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation with the Pioneer Award for their contributions to music. The Shirelles' numerous other honors and accolades also include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked The Shirelles at #76 in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The magazine also included two of the group's songs, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Tonights The Night," in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Shirelles' story was dramatized in the musical revue, "Baby It's You!," which opened on Broadway in 2011. The group's two surviving members, Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston Reeves) and Beverly Lee, currently tour in separate groups. Lee, who acquired the trademark to The Shirelles' name, tours with a later incarnation of the group with all-new members billed as The Shirelles. Owens tours with a group known as Shirley Alston Reeves & Her Shirelles.
- Shirley Alston Reeves (nee Owens) discusses the formation of The Shirelles, her initial reaction to "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," and other topics in an interview with NJ.com (February 11, 2015).
- The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame pays tribute to The Shirelles.
- Biography.com remembers Addie "Micki" Harris and her days with The Shirelles.
- The New York Times remembers Doris Kenner-Jackson (nee Coley).
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- Baby It's You 1961
(This song later also became a hit for Smith (1969) and the Beatles (1995, originally recorded in 1963).)
- Big John 1961
- Dedicated To The One I Love 1959
(This song, which recharted for the Shirelles in 1961, also became a hit for the "5" Royales (1961), the Mamas & the Papas (1967), the Temprees (1972), and Bernadette Peters (1981).)
- Everybody Loves A Lover 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Doris Day (1958).)
- Foolish Little Girl 1963
- Mama Said 1961
- Soldier Boy 1962
(This song, which topped the charts, is about a girl who promises to stay true to her boyfriend while he is away serving in the military.)
- Tonights The Night 1960
(This song also became a hit for the Chiffons (1960).)
- Will You Love Me Tomorrow 1960
(This oldies classic, which was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, topped the charts and later also became a hit for the 4 Seasons (1968), Roberta Flack (1972), Melanie (1973), Dana Valery (1976), and Dave Mason (1978).)
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