Girl Groups Of The '60s: Pre-Beatles Queens Of The Pop Chart

By | October 4, 2017

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Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes, circa 1964. (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)

Girl groups of the 1960s were responsible for some of the catchiest hits of the day. Songs like "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" by The Shirelles, and "Where Did Our Love Go?" by the Supremes are pop-music diamonds, short and catchy with passionate lead vocals and sophisticated harmonies. The earlier wave of '60s girl groups included The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Blossoms, Shangri-Las, The Chiffons, the Dixie Cups, the Ronettes and The Cookies. Then later came the Motown sound with The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes.

The Supremes were one of few girl groups that was able to sustain their success through the tsunami that hit American shores in the form of the Beatles and the British Invasion. It's conventional wisdom among some music experts that the Brits more or less "killed" the girl group phenomenon, or at least hastened the end of the golden age of girl groups. But let's be real -- it's pop music, considered a fairly disposable form of entertainment at the time, and nothing lasts forever. It's also worth noting that girl group never went away, it just changed with the music -- up through the Pointer Sisters to TLC to the Spice Girls. 

The original or "classic" girl-group phenomenon had a damn good run, in that period from 1961 to '64, when some 750 girl groups put singles onto the pop chart. Americans were treated to music that still makes you sing along, even if you weren't even born when it was released, and remains some of the most transporting pop ever recorded -- when you hear a girl group hit, even if you're streaming it on Spotify over Bluetooth, in a small way you feel like it's 1963 all over again.

The Best Girl Group Hits Of The '60s Are Timeless

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Martha and Vandellas (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The distinctive sound of the girl groups filled the air during that time. Along with the sound of the cash register and the sales of millions of records! Music critic Greil Marcus, who wrote about the girl groups in 1992 for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, stated: “The music was perhaps the most carefully, beautifully crafted in all of rock and roll – one reason why none of the twenty or so best records in the genre have dated in the years since they were made.”