‘Chapel of Love’ singer Johnson dies at 72

NEW YORK (AP) — 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.