Rosa Lee Hawkins, singer in ’60s pop group The Dixie Cups, dead at 76

January 20, 2022

Rosa Lee Hawkins in the 60’s

Rosa Lee Hawkins, a member of the ’60s girl group The Dixie Cups, has died. She was 76.

Her sister and bandmate Barbara Ann Hawkins told The New York Times that Rosa died after experiencing internal bleeding caused by complications related to surgery performed at Tampa General Hospital.

“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, 78, said of their shared career.

In 1964, the band’s iconic single “Chapel of Love” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, topping The Beatles’ “Love Me Do.

In an article published in The Arizona Republic last year, Rosa spoke about how the trio, which consisted of herself, her sister and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson, were initially not sold on the single because it sounded too “country.”

Rosa Lee Hawkins in 2015

“And we just really was not into country at that time,” she explained, telling producers that they would tweak it.

“So we rehearsed it in a little corner, just the three of us, not the piano. And we came up with the version they released,” she said. “But they all laughed, you know. They said, ‘Oh, country song.’ ”

Hawkins started singing at an early age in church, Billboard reported, and the girl group originally called themselves the Meltones. Their big break came at a New Orleans talent show in 1963, which they entered in hopes of winning its $100 cash prize.

Though they didn’t win the competition, they caught the attention of talent scout Joe Jones. He went on to become their manager, and the group later changed its name to The Dixie Cups.

In her memoir Chapel of Love: The Story of New Orleans Girl Group the Dixie Cups, published May 2021, Rosa alleged that Jones sexually abused her and financially exploited the band. He died in 2005.

“Some people write books to hurt other people,” she told the Arizona Republic last year. “I did not write my book to hurt anyone. I just wanted to get it all down on paper.”

Beyond “Chapel of Love,” some of The Dixie Cups’ other hit songs include “People Say,” “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me,” “Little Bell” and “Iko Iko.”

Johnson died in 2016, and Barbara is the group’s only surviving member.