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The Chiffons Were Number One 50 Years Ago This Week

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One of the most publicized lawsuits in music history was “He’s So Fine” vs. “My Sweet Lord.” During early 1971 the Bright Tunes Music Corporation and the estate of songwriter Ronnie Mack filed suit against George Harrison that he had plagiarized “He’s So Fine” when he wrote “My Sweet Lord.” They won the suit when the court ruled that Harrison had committed unintended plagiarism. It remained in the court system for another five years and did not end until Harrison purchased Bright Tunes.

This long-standing and very public lawsuit tended to obscure the fact that “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons was one of the outstanding singles of the 1960s pre-Beatles era.

Judy Craig, Barbara Lee, Patricia Bennett, and Sylvia Peterson were from New York City and began singing together in high school. Songwriter Ronnie Mack asked them to record some of his compositions as demos. Mack brought the demos to Bright Tune Productions, a company owned by the vocal group, The Tokens. Impressed, they brought the four girls, now calling themselves The Chiffons, in for a recording session. Over a dozen labels rejected the song before Laurie Records signed them to a contract. It first reached the Billboard Hot 100 during late February of 1963 and 50 years ago this week reached number one where it remained for four weeks, selling over 1 million copies. Mack died of Hodgkins Disease shortly after the song became a hit.

“He’s So Fine” was perfect radio fare. The infectious “doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang” line that provided the song’s introduction and background for the vocals were memorable and just stayed in your mind. It was just under two minutes of pop bliss.

The group continued to chart regularly until 1966. Membership in the group changed a number of times but now (original member) Craig fronts the group that still performs. Their only misstep was their recording of “My Sweet Lord,” which was deservedly ignored by the music-buying public.

The Chiffons reached the top ten two more times but would never again have the success of their biggest hit, which 50 years ago this week topped the American music world.

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About David Bowling

  • Brian Dooley

    Music plagairism suits have been more ridiculous with the years. Inevitably, pop songs will sound familiar.