Between the popularity of the early Rock and Rollers and the mid-1960s British Invasion was the phenomenon known as the “Girl Groups.” With names like the Bobbettes, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Chantelles, they offered a style rich in vocal harmonies that was eagerly embraced by a wide audience.
A number of Girl Group hit songs were co-written by female songwriters, including Carole King, Ellie Greenwich, Cynthia Weil, and Florence Greenberg (who also launched her own record label and whose life served as the basis for the 2011 Broadway musical Baby It’s You). If, up to that point, male voices and male songwriters dominated the popular music scene, things were changing. Rock and Roll had a new female sound that produced a string of hits.
The Girl Groups rarely if ever performed material they had written themselves and rarely if ever played the instruments featured on their recordings, a job left to male studio musicians. Lyrically, most of their songs — from the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” to the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” — focused on the males in their lives and the promise of a satisfying relationship with that perfect guy. But there was nonetheless something new at work: a female voice was emerging despite it all.
Today’s Listening Assignments