Put another notch in my book belt, because Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock is officially in the books, as of today.
I don’t know if it really counts as having read a real books, since it’s less than 200 pages and includes pictures on almost every page, but it’s a great journey through the nostalgia of the girl group sound. The book goes through the major groups, like the Ronettes, the Shirelles, and the Supremes, but also some lesser known ones like the Exciters, the Shangri-Las, the Dixie Cups, and the Angels. There’s also a corresponding documentary you can watch on YouTube that gives you the full story (well, most of it), including interviews with some of the people of the era, including the late great Ellie Greenwich, the supremest of the Supremes Mary Wilson, the lovely Darlene Love, and the rebel queen of rock-and-roll, Ronnie Spector herself. Nostalgia everywhere you turn.
“But Jacob,” you might say, “you weren’t alive in the 60s and 70s, when Ronnie Spector was teasing her hair and Murray the K was on the air.”
I beg to differ.
Even though I was born in the 1980s and grew up in the 90s and 00s, I didn’t embrace the music of the times until high school. Some of my most cherished memories are from car rides to school, to the mall, or to the doctor, singing along with Aretha or Diana on the radio. I grew up listening to the Supremes, the Shirelles, and Martha and the Vandellas. Most kids like to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” or at least a catchy, pervasive pop earworm – from my generation, it was songs like “One of Us,” “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and “Ironic.” The first song I knew all the words to, however, was “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and I would sing it at every opportunity. In the Napster era (RIP), the first song I ever downloaded was “Respect,” by Aretha Franklin, which is kind of ironic.
Even if you didn’t grow up in the 1960s, there’s no denying that these songs are arguably the best music America has ever offered the world. The lyrics are fun, if a little dark at times, but always break the ice. Plus, their wide vocal range makes them great karaoke choices, or for a cappella groups. Everything about them is timeless, and if you were to repackage them by a popular artist of today, they’d be just as popular.
With that said, here are my top five favorite girl group songs, some of which might have future entries decided to them:
5. The Dixie Cups, “Iko Iko”
4. The Chantels, “Maybe”
3. The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back”
2. The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”
1. The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
And if you don’t want to watch the documentary I linked above, here are the two most important moments.
This entry is dedicated to one of the all-time greatest teen queens, who unfortunately passed away earlier today at the age of 68. She brought us “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and her own version of “My Boyfriend’s Back.”
Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence…
LESLEY GORE (1946-2015)