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Members include Patricia Bennett (born on April 7, 1947, in Bronx, NY), vocals; Judy Craig (born in 1946 in Bronx, NY), lead vocals; Barbara Lee (born on May 16, 1947, in Bronx, NY; died in 1992), vocals; Sylvia Peterson (born on September 30, 1946, in Bronx, NY; joined group, 1962), vocals. Addresses: Record company--Ace Records, 42-50 Steele Rd., London NW10 7AS, England.
The unmistakable sound of "doo-lang, doo-lang" marks the start of one of the catchiest tunes of the 1960s--and recalls the girl group that made it famous. "He's So Fine," entered the pop pantheon while the group, the Chiffons, "epitomized all the most innocent qualities of the girl-group sound," according to MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide writer Gary Pig Gold. The Chiffons dominated AM radio in the early part of the decade with a string of chart-toppers including "One Fine Day" and "Sweet Talkin' Guy."
The Chiffons were teenage friends from the Bronx, New York. Judy Craig, Barbara Lee, and Patricia Bennett began developing their close harmonies and infectious melodic style during schooldays, when they amused themselves by singing between classes. They were discovered by a local songwriter, Ronnie Mack, who recruited the teens to record a demo of his original songs. That led to a remake of the Shirelles single "Tonight's the Night," which Mack sold to a small label. The single became a hit for the trio, now known as the Chiffons--a name drawn from a hat.
By the end of 1960 Mack and the Chiffons had caught the attention of Bright Tunes, a production company that also produced hits for the Tokens. The trio, which became a quartet in 1962 with the addition of Sylvia Peterson, scored their first big hit a year later with "He's So Fine" released as part of their debut album, The Chiffons. The epitome of the early-1960s New York sound, the Chiffons performed in cocktail dresses, high heels, and upswept hairdos while crooning songs of teen angst. To All Music Guide reviewer Richie Unterberger, "He's So Fine" can be summed up by the "doo-lang" riff, which trails throughout the whole number, "kept up by the backup singers as the lead vocal [Craig] delivers a typical but fetching idealization of a boy."
"He's So Fine," a million-seller, reached number one on the Billboard pop charts on March 30, 1963, a fact that must have created some angst at Capitol Records, the publishing giant that rejected the single. Released instead by the smaller Laurie label, by May 11, the single had also topped the British charts. The accomplishment was dimmed, unfortunately, by the early death of Ronnie Mack, who succumbed to Hodgkin's disease.
The Chiffons scored another "fine" hit with the Carole King-penned "One Fine Day," released in July of 1963. The song was originally recorded by Little Eva, with the Tokens as backup. The Chiffons' production company heard the single, bought it on the spot, erased Little Eva's vocals, and rerecorded it with Craig, Bennett, Lee, and Peterson. "One Fine Day" peaked at number five. Continuing their streak, the Chiffons released "A Love So Fine" in October of 1963. This single didn't fare as well as its predecessors, though, and rose only to number 40.
After their string of successes, the Chiffons were poised to begin 1964 with a new string of singles. They didn't count on the British Invasion, however, and the change of musical taste it heralded. The girl-group sound quickly fell to Merseybeat harmonicas of the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, and others, and the Chiffons' subsequent releases didn't chart well: "I Have a Boyfriend" hit only number 36; "Sailor Boy" peaked at a disappointing 81. This pushed the Chiffons to sue to extricate themselves from Bright Tunes. They were released from their contract on the grounds that they had been minors when they first signed with the production company. The group became part of another, much-publicized lawsuit just a few years later.
The Chiffons spent the rest of the 1960s attempting to rekindle the magic of their earlier years. They scored a high-charting single, "Sweet Talkin' Guy," in 1966, but for the most part the group's fate was sealed. They continued to tour, even after the 1969 departure of lead vocalist Craig, and disbanded in 1972. However, the group performed in one form or another for several years since on the nostalgia circuit until the late 1990s, when Lee died of a heart attack.
If the Chiffons are recalled for anything besides their "fine" singles, it must surely be for the lawsuit alleging that George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" was plagiarized from "He's So Fine." The former Beatles' single, part of his All Things Must Pass album, was released in 1970 and later heard on The Best of George Harrison. As "My Sweet Lord" began climbing the charts, the song's close resemblance to "He's So Fine" became obvious. The two numbers share a virtually identical melody with of "four repetitions of a short musical phrase," according to the Copyright website.
Harrison was sued for plagiarism by the estate of "He's So Fine" composer Ronnie Mack, and Bright Tunes Music Corp. vs. Harrisongs Music Ltd. went to court in 1976. Harrison argued that he did not knowingly appropriate the melody. The court concluded, however, that Harrison, deliberately or not, had indeed infringed on the copyrighted tune. The decision, quoted on the Columbia Law School website, stated: "[Because] his subconscious knew it already had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember.... This is, under the law, infringement of copyright, and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished." The court also implied that it may have been longtime Harrison collaborator Billy Preston, described by the Copyright website as the "principal musician" on "My Sweet Lord," who actually facilitated those familiar riffs. The Chiffons' rendition of "My Sweet Lord," issued in 1975, never caught on.
If "He's So Fine" put the Chiffons on the map in the 1970s, "One Fine Day" brought them back into the public eye in the 1990s. A George Clooney-Michelle Pfeiffer romantic comedy with the same title was released in 1996; the Chiffons' classic version of the title song was included on the soundtrack, along with a sultrier rendition by Natalie Merchant.
The Chiffons continue to perform into the new century. More recent members include Judy Craig's daughter Dawn Mann, and Craig's niece.
by Susan Salter
The Chiffons's Career
Group formed, 1960; first charting single, "He's So Fine," topped U.S. charts in March of 1963; follow-up single "One Fine Day" reached number five on Billboard charts in July of 1963; third charting single, "Sweet Talkin' Guy," released, 1966; plagiarism lawsuit against George Harrison and Billy Preston, 1971-76; group disbanded in 1972, but continued to tour with various original and new members; appeared on Shindig and other television shows; songs included on movie soundtracks One Fine Day, The Flamingo Kid, and others.
- Selected discography
- "Tonight's the Night," 1960.
- "He's So Fine," 1963.
- "One Fine Day," 1963.
- "Sweet Talkin' Guy," 1966.
- "My Sweet Lord," 1975.
- Chiffons Laurie, 1963.
- One Fine Day Laurie, 1963.
- Sweet Talkin' Guy Laurie, 1966.
- My Secret Love BP Puppy, 1970.
- Everything You Always Wanted Laurie, 1984.
- Doo Lang Doo Lang Doo Lang Impact, 1985.
- Best of the Chiffons Laurie, 1988.
- Greatest Recordings Ace, 1990.
- One Fine Day and Other Favorites Cema Special, 1992.
- Boys Boys Boys Cema Special, 1995.
- Greatest Hits Capitol, 1996.
- Best of the Chiffons DJ Specialist, 1998.
- One Fine Day and Other Favorites Ace, 2003.
- Clark, Donald, Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989.
- Graff, Gary, and Daniel Durchholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
- Gregory, Hugh, Soul Music A-Z,Sterling Publishing, 1991.
- "The Chiffons," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 21, 2003).
- "Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music," Columbia Law School, http://library.law.columbia.edu/music_plagiarism/006/006opinion.html (September 9, 2003).
The Chiffons Lyrics
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