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Black History NJ: Micki Harris and the Shirelles

Addie “Micki” Harris was born in Passaic, New Jersey on January 22, 1940. She attended Passaic High School, where she met Beverly Lee (another Passaic native), Shirley Owens, and Doris Coley. The four girls became best friends, and were inseparable throughout high school.

The quartet soon found that they were musically inclined, and formed their own group called The Poquellos, which means “little birds” in Spanish. They began writing their own original songs, and Owens was deemed the lead singer.

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Talent Show

The Poquellos performed their first original a cappella song, “I Met Him on a Sunday,” at the school’s talent show and became an instant hit among their classmates. One student convinced the group to audition for her mom, Florence Greenberg, who was the head of a small record company. Greenberg loved their act and became the group’s manager. She immediately changed their name to The Shirelles, after the lead singer’s name.

“I Met Him on a Sunday” became the group’s very first single in 1958 and was an immediate knockout. However, The Shirelles’ next two singles under Decca Records flopped, and Decca dropped the New Jersey girls. Greenberg then signed the group to Scepter Records where they met Luther Dixon, who revamped the girls’ style.

A Chart-topping Hit

Micki Harris and The ShirellesHarris and her crew had a breakthrough with their hit “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” which was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The single reached number 1 on the pop charts, and number 1 on the British pop charts a year later, and The Shirelles became the first all-female group to make it to number 1 during the rock era.

The Shirelles continued their massive success through the 1960s with popular albums and fruitful tours. However, by the 1970s, feeling the effects of the British Invasion, their popularity began to die down; they were no longer the chart-topping ladies they were the decade before. They continued to tour throughout the 1970s and early ‘80s, despite their declining fan-base, and as members left the group one by one, Harris stuck around through it all. But on June 10, 1982, in the middle of a performance in Atlanta, Georgia, Harris suffered a major heart attack that took her life.

Micki Harris and her three best friends from high school started an enormously successful pop group that received praise from all over the world. The New Jersey-natives were influential in the pop scene, and still attract fans to this day.

Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Carly Weaver / Best of NJ
Additional Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

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