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Our Time Press begins new series on 60’s “Girl Groups”

The Chantels: Dreaming of Stardom if you Look in Their Eyes

To feature interviews with Lois Harris Powell (Chantels),
Delores Kenniebrew (The Crystals) and Beverly Lee (The Shirelles)

by Bernice Elizabeth Green
If the reaction to last week’s Our Time Press story on a little-publicized footnote of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March is an indicator, Brooklyn remembers and loves The Shirelles, one of the top “girl groups” of the 1960s.
The OTP article recalled how the now iconic singing group responded to requests for their performances at fundraisers in support of causes like the ‘63 march. There are more gems (some found in scary moments of the racially tense 60s) about the girl groups, but the open “secret” is that the “girlz” speaking voices were rarely heard “singing” their own life stories or speaking out on issues of the time.
In the new Our Time Press series, inspired by the new book, “But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups” by Brooklyn authors Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, Beverly Lee of The Shirelles, Lois Harris Powell of The Chantels and Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew of The Crystals, recall their experiences and share their words with our readers. (Hatchette Books releases “But Will You Love Me Tomorrow” this coming Tuesday (5) for availability at area outlets, including Greenlight Books on Fulton Street {}, among others.

Some of the women of the many girl groups featured in this book went on to achieve stardom in their own right. Some had successful careers behind the scenes in the music industry. Most returned to quiet lives beyond the public eye, some empowered, some broken. But all have amazing stories to tell about their experiences and insights to share about this momentous period in the history of the music industry and of our country.
Overall, the book’ is an oral history compilation of more than 300 hours of new interviews with 100-plus subjects on acts like The Ronettes, The Supremes and The andellas. The “girl” vocalists (some actually as young as 12 and 14) revolutionized American popular music, of the 50s and 60s, with songs like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Be My Baby,” “Maybe,” and “Look in My Eyes,” many of the artists remain all but anonymous to most listeners. Unfortunate, – since they paved the way for such subsequent artists as Destiny’s Child, TLC, The Spice Girls, En Vogue and many more.
The Our Time Press series reveals the personalities of these girlz-to-women, who were pioneers, but did not realize it at the height of their success. In fact, the emergence of the Girl Groups heralded the Women’s Rights movement and may even have challenged traditional female roles, behind the scenes, yet, even today, they receive little credit for it because their behind-the-scenes stories were suppressed along with the appropriate compensation for their music.

In exclusive interviews with the authors and star vocalists, Our Time Press interviews offers insights in the girl groups’ contributions to music history; workings of the studio system, friendships and personal achievement. In one sense they remain anonymous to most listeners of their music to this day. Flam and Leibowitz’s book and the OTP interviews attempt to correct this.
Yes, after more than 60 years, Brooklyn still loves — and, yes, remembers — The Shirelles and the other “girl groups” of the 1960’s whose vocalizing was “so fine” and history-making, behind the scenes.
(To be continued)
Special thanks to OTP field researcher and community activist Evelyn Collier for placing our papers story on the National Action Network buses leaving from Boys & Girls H.S. for DC, last Saturday morning, for the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.