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Notable girl groups in music, from the '50s to today

Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Cindy Birdsong of

Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Cindy Birdsong of Motown's soul pop group the Supremes in 1968. Credit: Getty Images / Keystone

From The Supremes of Motown to "X-Factor" product Fifth Harmony, girl groups have been dominating the music industry and delivering chart toppping hits for more than half a century — because as Beyoncé said, girls "Run the World." Here are just a few worth remembering:

The Shirelles (1957)

Formed in 1957, when members Shirley Alston Reeves, Addie “Micki” Harris, Doris Kenner Jackson and Beverly Lee were still New Jersey high schoolers, The Shirelles were one of the first all-girl music groups. Originally called The Pequellos, they changed their name before releasing their first single “I Met Him on a Sunday” (1958). That song narrowly missed the Top 40, but established The Shirelles’ sweet, R&B-tinged pop sound and polished, girl-next-door image. Their biggest hit, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” reached No. 1 in 1961, making them the first girl group to land a No. 1 hit.

In total, The Shirelles had six Top 10 Billboard hits, including “Soldier Boy,” “Dedicated to the One I Love” and “Mama Said,” and several others among the top 40. Once The British Invasion revolutionized pop music in the mid-60s, The Shirelles’ success began to fizzle. They were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Ronettes (1957)

With their beehive hairdos, thick eyeliner and fitted skirts, The Ronettes cultivated more of a rock and roll image and sound than The Shirelles as they found fame in the early ‘60s. The three young women from Spanish Harlem — sisters Veronica (aka Ronnie) and Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley — saw their career take off after signing to Phil Spector’s record label in 1963 and releasing back-to-back pop singles “Be My Baby” (which reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart and later inspired Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”) and “Baby I Love You.” The Ronettes ended up with a total of five Top 40 hits, and had The Rolling Stones open for them on tour in 1964 before touring with The Beatles in 1966. The group split in 1967; frontwoman Ronnie married Spector the following year.

In her 1990 autobiography, “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness,” Ronnie Spector recounted an abusive six-year marriage in which Phil Spector (now in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson) kept her virtually a prisoner in their Beverly Hills mansion. The Ronettes were inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, two years before Estelle Bennett’s death. In 2016, Ronnie Spector released her album “English Heart,” and now tours as Ronne Spector and The Ronettes.

The Crystals (1960)

An R&B girl group similar to The Ronettes and The Shirelles, The Crystals were a quintet of high schoolers when they formed in Brooklyn in 1960. Signed to Phil Spector’s Philles label in 1961, their hits include “Da Doo Ron Ron” (1963), which peaked at No. 3; “Then He Kissed Me” (1963), which peaked at No. 6; and their biggest hit “He's A Rebel” (1962), which was their only song to reach No. 1 on the charts. The Crystals split in 1967, before a brief reunion with some of the members from 1971-73. Original members Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew and Dolores “LaLa” Brooks performed as solo artists as recently as late 2018.

The Supremes (1961)

Motown’s first and most successful all-female group, The Supremes delivered soulful pop chart-toppers that remain classics to this day, including “Baby Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love” and more. Original trio Diana Ross, Florence Ballard (who was later replaced by Cindy Birdsong) and Mary Wilson formed in the early ‘60s in Detroit, and were signed to Motown Records in 1961. After a slow start, The Supremes skyrocketed to fame with 12 No. 1 hits from 1964 to 1969. Unlike The Shirelles, their success continued despite the British Invasion of the mid-60s.

By the onset of the ‘70s, Ross left the group to embark on what would become a legendary solo career with hits including “Endless Love,” “I’m Coming Out” and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” But that didn’t mean the end of the hitmaking trio — they would replace her with Jean Terrell and land two songs (“Up the Ladder to the Roof” and “Stoned Love”) on the charts. The group would go through another transition of members before disbanding in 1977. The original trio was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The Supremes inspired the early ‘80s Tony-winning Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” and the 2006 film adaptation of the same name starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson. Both Wilson and Ross are still performing as solo artists.

Martha and the Vandellas (1961)

One of Motown Record’s original artists and most successful touring acts, Martha Reeves and various backup singers (which at times included Rosalind Ashford-Holmes, Annette Sterling-Helton, Lois Reeves and Betty Kelly) rose to stardom in the ‘60s. The group’s first big hit was “Come and Get These Memories” (1963), followed by “Heat Wave,” which soared to No. 4 on the charts. The following year, the group’s biggest hit “Dancing in the Street,” peaked at No. 2.

Martha and the Vandellas amassed six Top 10 hits before splitting up in 1971. Reeves embarked on a brief solo career, but by the late ‘70s the group would reunite. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Martha and the Vandellas in 1995, deeming them “The Supremes’ tougher, more grounded counterpart.” They have tour dates scheduled through June 2019.

The Pointer Sisters (1970)

The Pointer Sisters, comprised of sisters Bonnie, June, Anita and Ruth Pointer, brought a sound that spanned R&B, dance and pop, with hits including “Jump (for My Love)” and “I'm So Excited.” The sisters had a total of 26 songs on the Billboard charts, with “Slow Hand” (1981) and “Fire” (1979) both reaching No. 2. In 1975, they won a Grammy Award (their first of three) for their country crossover song “Fairytale” — still the only country Grammy won by black women. The previous year, The Pointer Sisters had also made history as the first African-American group to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.

The Runaways (1975)

Fronted by Long Beach’s Joan Jett, The Runaways were one of the first female groups to burst onto the hard rock scene. Formed in 1975 when Jett, Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, Jackie Fox and Sandy West were teenagers, the group demonstrated that women too, belonged in the punk rock world. They released four albums between 1976 and their split in 1979, and saw particular success in Japan, where their arrival for a sold-out tour in 1977 prompted a hysteria similar to the Beatlemania of the ‘60s. Singles “Cherry Bomb,” “Runaways” and “Queens of Noise” didn’t rise to the top of the charts, but The Runaways paved the way for forthcoming all-female groups including The Go-Go’s.

Jett became a major star in the ‘80s, after launching her independent record company, Blackheart Records, and moving on with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, whose hit singles include “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” They were inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, and are currently touring the United States.

The Go-Go’s (1978)

Known for upbeat pop-rock songs including their 1982 smash hit “We Got The Beat,” as well as “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed,” The Go-Go’s formed in Los Angeles in 1978. Made up of Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Belinda Carlisle — who went on to launch a successful solo career in the late ‘80s — the group brought their own style to the table, playing their own instruments and writing their own songs. A documentary about the group and their hit-making journey is set to premiere on Showtime in 2019.

Salt-N-Pepa (1985)

Salt-N-Pepa who rose to popularity in the late ‘80s, became the first female rap group to grace the music charts. The group first started out a duo with members Cheryl "Salt" James, Sandra "Pepa" Denton, and later added Deidra "Dee Dee" Roper, aka Spinderella. Salt-N-Pepa delivered songs that remain classics to this day, including “Push It,” which peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1988;

“Let’s Talk About Sex,” which reached No. 13 in 1991; and “Shoop,” which peaked at No. 4 in 1993. The Grammy-winning group and Long Island Music Hall of Famers (Salt is a longtime Melville resident), who paved the way for women to come in the hip-hop industry, will be the subject of a new scripted Lifetime documentary series, the network announced in March 2019. Salt-N-Pepa is currently on the “Mixtape Tour” with New Kids on the Block, which will stop at Nassau Coliseum on June 30.

Dixie Chicks (1989)

Originally founded as a bluegrass band, the country group initially included sisters Martie and Emily Erwin, Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy and Natalie Maines, but after a few transitions the group boiled down to three members: the Erwin sisters and Maines. One of their biggest hits and most outspoken hits, “Not Ready to Make Nice” — which landed at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2007 and won the Dixie Chicks two of their 12 Grammys — was written after the band was blacklisted from radio stations and boycotted by fans over Maines’ critical comments of the Iraq War and then-President George W. Bush during a 2003 concert. The Dixie Chicks’ most recent performance together was in April 2018, on the heels of their most recent album, “DCX MMXVI,” released in September 2017.

Wilson Phillips (1990)

Pop-soft rock trio Wilson Phillips — made up of sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips — gained popularity in 1990 after their first, self-titled album became a Grammy-nominated hit. Three songs on the album (“Hold On,” “Release Me” and “You’re in Love”) hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

By 1993, Wilson Phillips split and work on their own projects: Phillips went to work on a solo album, while the sisters worked on projects with their father, Beach Boys band leader Brian Wilson. The trio reunited a few times during the early 2000s. Now seemingly back together again, the group has a few upcoming performances set for summer 2019.

TLC (1991)

With an edgy, sexy and sometimes controversial sound and image, TLC members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Rozonda "Chili" Thomas paved the way for future R&B/pop girl groups including Destiny’s Child. The group gave us unforgettable hits including “Waterfalls,” which rose to No. 1 on the charts in 1995, and “No Scrubs,” which hit No. 1 in 1999. TLC had three multiplatinum albums and nine Top 10 hits by the end of the ‘90s. The two surviving members of TLC, Chili and T-Boz — Lopes died in a car accident in 2002 — are touring this summer alongside rappers Nelly and Flo Rida.

Spice Girls (1994)

English pop band the Spice Girls became a worldwide sensation in the ’90s. Made up of members Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Mel B. (Scary Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) and Mel C. (Sporty Spice), the group was formed in the early ‘90s, and by 1996 they were topping charts in Europe. In 1997, their catchy hit “Wannabe” soared to No. 1 on the U.S. charts. The group secured four Top 10 hits throughout that year and the next, including “Say You’ll Be There” and “Goodbye.” Halliwell departed for a solo career in 1998, and the group split in 2001. Nearly two decades later, the Spice Girls announced a six-date U.K. stadium tour for June 2019. Beckham, who now runs her eponymous fashion line and is married to former soccer star David Beckham, will not be joining them.

Destiny's Child (1997)

The biggest R&B girl group of the early 2000s, Destiny's Child changed its name from Girls Tyme and went through a handful of lineup changes in the ‘90s before getting signed to Columbia Records in 1997 and ending up as the trio consisting of Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. From 1999-2001, Destiny’s child dropped back to back chart-topping hits, which included No. 1 singles “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Say My Name,” “Independent Women Part 1” and “Bootylicious.” By the mid-2000s, the group went on hiatus and started to venture off into solo projects. Though they no longer perform together regularly, the group reunited for Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2013 and again when she headlined the Coachella music festival in 2018.

Pussycat Dolls (2003) 

What once began as a burlesque dance revue in the late ‘90s turned into an all-girl singing group with members Ashley Roberts, Carmit Bachar, Jessica Sutta, Kimberly Wyatt, Melody Thornton and Nicole Scherzinger by 2003. In 2005 their popular hit “Don’t Cha” featuring Busta Rhymes soared to No. 2 on the charts, and the following year their song “Buttons” landed at No. 3. By 2008, the group had four songs on the Top 10 hits chart, which is the same year Bachar left the group to pursue a solo career. After a few more years together, four more members left in 2010 resulting in the end of the group.

Fifth Harmony (2012)

Fifth Harmony got their start in 2012 when each of the five members auditioned for “The X Factor” as solo contestants but were then fused together as a group. Members Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane, Lauren Jauregui and Camila Cabello, Fifth Harmony went on to put out hits “Worth It,” “Bo$$” and “Work from Home,” which soared to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Cabello left the group in late 2016 to pursue a solo career and didn’t take long to find success on her own: her single “Havana” reached No. 1 in January 2018. That March, the remaining four members announced that they would be going on hiatus to “pursue solo endeavors.”

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