There are a variety of ways that songs and artists move to the top of the list (yes, there is a list) of potential features for Soul Serenade. Sometimes it can be a simple as hearing the great opening riff of a song on the radio. That’s what happened this week. When you hear that staccato piano figure that opens “One Fine Day” you just know that you’re going to hear a great song, and nothing that comes after that gives you any reason to think differently. That piano part and all the music that follows was written by Carole King, who also played that rousing piano part. The lyrics are by her then-husband Gerry Goffin, who we lost earlier this year.
Goffin and King wrote “One Fine Day” for Little Eva, the housekeeper turned hitmaker who had scored with their song “The Locomotion” in 1962. The songwriters couldn’t come up with the right arrangement however, and they eventually offered the song to the Tokens, who had produced “He’s So Fine,” a hit for the Chiffons in early 1963. The thinking was that another song with the word “fine” in the title might be another hit for them. Good thinking.
The first order of business for the Tokens was to do something about that Goffin-King demo. It just didn’t work. They made big changes to it, but they managed to keep King’s piano part, and thank goodness for that. Whatever the Tokens did, it worked out well. “One Fine Day” was released in May, 1963 and made it all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #6 on the R&B chart.
Things went so well with the first two “fine” singles that the Tokens decided that they would try another. The third Chiffons record in the series “A Love So Fine” didn’t have the same success as the two earlier ones, only making it to #40 on the Pop chart.
The Chiffons are remembered as one of the top female vocal groups of the ’60s. They had started as a trio when they were classmates at James Monroe High School in the Bronx. In 1962 the original trio of Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett, and Barbara Lee added Sylvia Peterson to the lineup and they were ready for star time. Their first single was “He’s So Fine,” and it was a smash. The Laurie Records single went right to #1, sold a million copies, and was awarded a gold record.
Oddly, the group released two other singles in 1963, but as the Four Pennies. The singles were released on a Laurie imprint called Rust. Once it became clear that “He’s So Fine” was going to be a huge hit, the Four Pennies guise was abandoned, and the Chiffons were only the Chiffons from that point on.
The “fine” series in 1963 was hardly the end of the story for the Chiffons. They kept rolling with “I Have a Boyfriend” (another Goffin-King song), a #36 hit that same year. That was followed by lesser hits like “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On,” and “Out of this World,” and “Stop, Look, and Listen.” The Chiffons hit the jackpot again in 1966 with “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” (yet another Goffin-King song) which was a Top Ten single for them.
There were a few more minor hits for the Chiffons before the well began to dry up. By 1970 Judy Craig had left the group and gone to work in a bank. The remaining trio kept performing but eventually they had to take day jobs and only performed on weekends. After Sylvia Peterson left the group the lineup became something of a revolving door. Peterson eventually returned to the Chiffons in the ’80s, but then in 1992 Barbara Lee died of a heart attack. After that Judy Craig returned, and Peterson retired and was replaced by Connie Harvey. In recent years a group of Chiffons led by Craig and including her daughter and her niece has been making appearances.
There is an interesting footnote to the Chiffons career. In 1970 George Harrison recorded “My Sweet Lord.” The Chiffons thought it sounded a little too much like “He’s So Fine,” and took Harrison to court where they won a substantial judgement. Harrison always said that the similarity was unintentional. Ironically the Chiffons themselves recorded “My Sweet Lord” in 1975.