Chart Watch Extra: Top 20 Soul “Girl Groups”
"Girl groups" have been with us since the 1930s, when the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters stormed the charts. "Girl groups" with soul started to come on strong in the first half of the 1960s, with the success of the Shirelles (shown here), the Marvelettes, Patti LaBelle and Her Blue Belles, the Crystals, the Chiffons, Martha & the Vandellas and, most spectacularly, the Supremes.
"Girl groups" (the term is dated, but let's just go with it, OK?) have been training ground for such top stars as Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Beyonce.
Three leading soul girl groups are sister acts: the Pointer Sisters, The Emotions and Sister Sledge. Two others, Xscape and 702, each included a pair of sisters.
Twenty girl groups rank among the top 500 R&B hit-makers in chart history in chart researcher Joel Whitburn's indispensable book Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010. Here's a complete list of them. At the end of each entry, I tell you where that act ranks among the top 500.
1. The Supremes. The trio from Detroit amassed 24 top 10 R&B hits, from 1964's "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" to 1972's "Floy Joy." Diana Ross was featured on the first 19 top 10 hits (through 1969's "Someday We'll Be Together"). The tally includes a pair of collabos with the Temptations and one with the Four Tops. Eight of these hits topped the R&B chart. Ross has landed 18 additional top 10 R&B hits on her own. She won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in February. Top 500 ranking: #35.
2. Pointer Sisters. The sister quartet-turned-trio from Oakland, Calif. had six top 10 R&B hits, from 1975's "How Long (Betcha' Got A Chick On The Side)" to 1985's "Dare Me." Anita and Bonnie Pointer co-wrote "How Long," which was a #1 R&B hit. Bonnie went solo in 1978 and landed a top 10 R&B hit with "Free Me From My Freedom/Tie Me To A Tree (Handcuff Me)." The act continued as a trio. Top 500 ranking: #122.
3. Martha & the Vandellas. The trio from Detroit had 10 top 10 R&B hits, from 1963's "Come And Get These Memories" to 1968's "Honey Chile." The trio topped the R&B chart with 1963's "Heat Wave" and 1967's "Jimmy Mack." The act's signature hit was 1964's "Dancing In The Street," which was co-written by Marvin Gaye. The Vandellas had sung background vocals on Gaye's first three hits: "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow," "Hitch Hike" and "Pride And Joy." Top 500 ranking: #132.
4. TLC. The trio from Atlanta had nine top R&B 10 hits, from 1992's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" to 1999's "Unpretty." The tally includes three #1 R&B hits: "Baby-Baby-Baby," "Creep" and "No Scrubs." Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes co-wrote four of the trio's top 10 hits. Another member, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, co-wrote one, "Unpretty." Top 500 ranking: #138.