Barbara Alston, a singer for the 1960s girl group The Crystals, that made its name with hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me," has died at the age of 74. Alston's daughter Donielle Prophete told BBC News that she died on Feb. 16 due to complications from the flu.
“She loved The Crystals,” Prophete told BBC News. “She always talked about singing with them, the work they created together. She loved the sisterhood part of it, the traveling.”
Her band, along with The Ronettes, were among the definitive girl groups of the 1960s and helped construct producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique. Alston sang lead vocals on their first three singles, including the US top 20 hit "There's No Other Like My Baby."
The Crystals were originally a quintet consisting of Alston, Dee Dee Kennibrew, Mary Thomas, Patricia Wright and La La Brooks — all of whom grew up singing in church.
Beginning in 1961, The Crystals were formed by big band sideman and Alston's uncle Benny Wells and later joined with Spector to find success with singles like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me" — but they also ran into controversy. Their 1962 song "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)," written by Carole King, was controversial for its depiction of domestic violence. Spector eventually pulled the song from rotation.
King later subsequently disowned her musical composition on the song (Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics), saying "it's the one song I kind of wish I hadn't had any part of writing."
Initially Brooks was seen as the lead singer, but Spector disagreed and championed a reluctant Alston instead.
"I just found out recently [that] she had a real problem with being the lead," recalled Prophete. They loved her voice and they kept pushing her to the front but she was shy. My sister says mum wanted to do the choreography and stuff like that."1comments
Alston left the group in 1964, but Prophete told BBC she never lost her love of music: "She would always sing around the house, especially around Christmas."
Alston's funeral is being held on Friday, with fellow Crystals singer Dee Dee Kennibrew scheduled to be a speaker.