John­son, found­ing mem­ber of Dixie Cups, dies

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Mark Kennedy AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer

NEW YORK >> Joan Marie John­son, one of the found­ing mem­bers of the New Or­leans girl group The Dixie Cups, who had a No. 1 hit in 1964 with “Chapel of Love,” has died at a hos­pice in New Or­leans. She was 72.

John­son, who was only with the group for its first few years be­cause she was di­ag­nosed with sickle cell ane­mia, died of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure Oct. 3, ac­cord­ing to for­mer band­mate Bar­bara Ann Hawkins.

Their “Chapel of Love,” writ­ten by Phil Spec­tor, El­lie Green­wich and Jeff Barry, sup­planted the Bea­tles’ “Love Me Do” as the No. 1 song on both the pop and R&B charts. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later in­cluded it in the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll. It turns out the trio ar­ranged the vo­cals on the spot.

“When El­lie and Jeff first played ‘Chapel’ for us, we looked at each other, like, ‘You re­ally want us to sing that like that?’ They said, ‘Well, how do you want to sing it?’ So I said, ‘Give us a minute.’ So we went in the cor­ner and started singing. We walked back to them and when we sang it the way it was recorded, they were just, ‘Wow! That was awe­some,’” Hawkins said.

The trio’s other hits in­clude “Peo­ple Say,” ‘’You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me” and their ver­sion of a tra­di­tional New Or­leans song “Iko Iko.” Though they meet all the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for en­try in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so far they have not been in­vited to join.

“We went through a lot be­cause it was the early ‘60s and we went through a lot as far as race and a whole lot of other things. We had a man­ager who wasn’t re­ally in our cor­ner, but there were a lot of good times,” Hawkins said.

John­son started the group as a teenager and asked Hawkins to join. Hawkins soon asked if her sis­ter, Rosa Lee, could also join. When they were about to go to New York to set up mu­sic deals, Hawkins’ grand­mother called over to the John­son house to find out more about her and her fam­ily.

Soon the grand­mother started laugh­ing and the Hawkins sisters even­tu­ally re­al­ized that John­son was their cousin. “I had never even met her,” said Bar­bara Ann Hawkins.

The trio would even­tu­ally be signed to Red Bird Records by the song­writ­ing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. But the trav­el­ing and in­con­sis­tent meal times took their toll on Faust, who dropped out of the group.

She is sur­vived by a sis­ter, Ida, and a brother, Howard. A me­mo­rial is planned at the King­dom Hall of Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses on Oct. 18.


Mem­bers of the Dixie Cups from left, Rosa Lee Hawkins, Joan Marie John­son and Bar­bara Ann Hawkins, per­form dur­ing the 2008 New Or­leans Jazz & Her­itage Fes­ti­val in New Or­leans.

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