Dixie Cups Member Dies, Sang on ‘Chapel of Love’

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Joan Marie Johnson, one of the founding members of the New Orleans “girl group” trio The Dixie Cups—best known for their 1964 #1hit “Chapel of Love”—died October 3, according to various news sources. She was 72 and was in hospice care in New Orleans. The cause was heart disease.

The Dixie Cups in 1964

The Dixie Cups in 1964

Johnson, who went by her married name of Joan Marie Johnson Faust, was a cousin of sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins. The three girls, managed by Joe Jones (who’d scored a top 10 hit in 1960 with “You Talk Too Much”) formed the group in 1963—as the Meltones—and, under their new name, signed the following year with Red Bird Records, a new label formed by the songwriter-producer team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller along with music executive George Goldner.

In April 1964, Red Bird released “Chapel of Love” as its first single. Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, it had been recorded by the Blossoms the previous year but remained unreleased. The single rose to the top slot of the Billboard chart that June, where it replaced the Beatles’ “Love Me Do.” The Dixie Cups’ record stayed at #1 for three weeks.

They returned to the singles chart four more times, with “People Say” (#12), “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me” (#39), “Little Bell” (#51) and “Iko Iko,” the last a traditional New Orleans chant they recorded spontaneously in the studio. That recording reached #20 in 1965 and became their final charting single. The group also had one charting album, Chapel of Love, which stalled at #112 in 1964.

Related: A look at some other hits of 1964

Johnson left the group (which moved from Red Bird to ABC-Paramount) for health reasons in 1966 and later became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Dixie Cups broke up in 1966 but re-formed, without Johnson, in 1974. A lineup including the two Hawkins sisters remains active today.

In 2007, the Dixie Cups were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Their recording of “Chapel of Love” was included in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.

Here is their timeless hit…

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