Published On: Sat, Jan 15th, 2022

Rosa Lee Hawkins, Youngest Member of the Dixie Cups, Dies at 76


Rosa Lee Hawkins, the youngest member of the musical trio the Dixie Cups, whose hit single “Chapel of Love” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 in 1964, died on Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. She was 76.

The cause was internal bleeding resulting from complications during surgery at Tampa General Hospital, said her sister Barbara Ann Hawkins, who was also a member of the group, along with Joan Marie Johnson, who died in 2016 at 72.

The Dixie Cups epitomized the harmonizing sound of the 1960s girl group. “Chapel of Love,” their debut single and most well-known song, quickly replaced the Beatles’ “Love Me Do” as No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1964. It was later heard on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam War film, “Full Metal Jacket.”

Rosa Lee Hawkins was born on Oct. 23, 1945, in New Orleans to Hartzell Hawkins, a self-employed carpenter, and Lucille (Merette) Hawkins, a state worker who registered voters.

While in high school in 1963, Barbara brought Rosa along to sing with her and Joan Marie in a high school talent show. The trio initially called themselves the Meltones, only to discover later that the name had already been taken. Since they were from the land of Dixie, and “cups are cute,” Barbara said in an interview, they came up with the name Dixie Cups (playing on the name of the popular paper cup).

Joan later discovered that the Hawkins sisters were actually her cousins.

While they did not win the talent show, a talent scout in the audience, impressed by their rich harmonies, invited the group, along with other Louisiana musicians, to perform for Red Bird Records. The Dixie Cups sang “Iko Iko,” a song that was traditionally sung during Mardi Gras and that was a favorite of the Hawkins sisters’ grandmother. They signed a recording contract soon after.

The Dixie Cups received two Gold Records, for “Chapel of Love” and another hit, “People Say.” They were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

The group recorded a total of four albums, their last in 2011. Ms. Johnson, ill with sickle-cell anemia and weary from touring, left the group and was replaced by a number of singers through the years. The Hawkins sisters remained, though, and kept singing just as they did in high school, with harmonies as vibrant as ever.

“When the audience smiled and applauded, it made her happy because she knew she put a smile on their faces, if only for that time,” Barbara said of her younger sister.

In addition to Barbara, Ms. Hawkins is survived by another sister, Shirley; a son, Eric Blanc; and two grandchildren.



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