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Steve Huey of AllMusic notes that the Shirelles defined "the so-called girl group sound with their soft, sweet harmonies and yearning innocence", with their songs predating Motown in their widespread crossing of racial demographics, both in the US and in Britain. He also notes that they spawned "legions of imitators", and laid a blueprint for future female pop stars to follow. Turner writes that the Shirelles "launched [the girl group] genre", noting that their early work already included "the essence" of the genre; Alwyn Zak expands on the statement, noting that the influx of female groups started after the success of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

Michael Campbell notes that the Shirelles' success reflected the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He indicates that works such as "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", written by a white couple, produced by an African-American man, with vocals by young African-American women and strings sounding like they were targeted at a white audience, conveyed a "color-blind" message on top of its more obvious sexual one

The Shirelles were an American girl group that achieved popularity in the early 1960s. They consisted of schoolmates Shirley Owens (later Shirley Alston-Reeves), Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie "Micki" Harris (later Addie Harris McPherson), and Beverly Lee. They have been described as either the first African-American girl group to top the Billboard Hot 100, or the first girl group overall, with the song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

Founded in 1957 for a talent show at their high school, they were signed by Florence Greenberg of Tiara Records. Their first single, "I Met Him on a Sunday", was released by Tiara and licensed by Decca Records in 1958. After a brief and unsuccessful period with Decca, they went with Greenberg to her newly formed company, Scepter Records. Working with Luther Dixon, the group rose to fame with "Tonight's the Night". After a successful period of collaboration with Dixon and promotion by Scepter, with seven top 20 hits, the Shirelles left Scepter in 1966. Afterwards, they were unable to maintain their previous popularity.

The Shirelles have been described as having a "naive schoolgirl sound" that contrasted with the sexual themes of many of their songs. Several of their hits used strings and baião-style music. They have been credited with launching the girl group genre, with much of their music reflecting the genre's essence. Their acceptance by both white and black audiences, predating that of the Motown acts, has been noted as reflecting the early success of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. They have received numerous honors, including the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, as well as being accepted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, and named one of the 100 best acts of all time by Rolling Stone in 2004. Two of their songs, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Tonight's the Night", were selected by Rolling Stone on its list of the greatest songs of all time.

Through marriages, Shirley Owens became Shirley Owens Alston and later, Shirley Alston Reeves, while Doris Coley became Doris Coley Kenner and later, Doris Kenner Jackson.
For the most part, Shirley was the lead singer, but occasionally, Doris sang lead.
Shirley and Beverly are the only two survivors of the quartet. Micki died of a heart attack on June 10, 1982 (age 42), and Doris lost a battle with breast cancer on February 4, 2000 (age 58).
The Shirelles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Shirelles officially came together in 1958 while still in high school. They were originally called "The Poquellos." When they were signed on to record for Florence Greenberg (owner of Tiara Records and later Scepter Records), Greenberg had their name changed to "the Shirelles," feeling that this name was more commercialized.
In 1968, Coley retired to remarry and raise her family, and the group continued as a trio. In 1975, she returned only to replace Owens to departed to begin a solo career.
Although the Shirelles had no more charting hits after 1967, they continued to record and perform for a small but devoted audience into the 1970s and performed live consistently until 1982. On June 10 of that year, after a live show in Atlanta, Harris collapsed and died of a heart attack (age 42). Shortly thereafter, they went into semi-retirement, though they did accept an invitation to record backup vocals for Dionne Warwick.
Owens and Lee are the only two survivors of the quartet. The aforementioned Harris passed away on June 10, 1982, and Coley lost a battle with breast cancer on February 4, 2000 (age 58). Today, Lee holds the trademark for the Shirelles' name.

50s, 60s Hits

Baby It's You
Dedicated To The One I Love
Foolish Little Girl
I Met Him On A Sunday
Mama Said
Soldier Boy
Will You Love Me Tomorrow

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