The Crystals‘ Barbara Ann Alston has died, aged 74.
The singer died in Charlotte, North Carolina last week (February 16) after contracting the flu, her daughter Donielle Prophete has confirmed. She spent two weeks in intensive care before her death.
The Crystals formed in 1961, with an original line-up featuring Alston, Mary Thomas, Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew, Myrna Giraud, and Patricia “Patsy” Wright, and were put together by Alston’s uncle Benny Wells. The group signed to Phil Spector’s Philles Record, and released their debut single ‘There’s No Other (Like My Baby)’ later the same year.
She sung the lead on that first release, as well as the two that followed it in 1962 – ‘Uptown’, and ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’. Of the latter, she later said it was “absolutely, positively, the one record that none of us liked”.
Speaking to BBC News, Prophete said her mother “loved The Crystals”. “She always talked about singing with them, the work they created together,” she said. “She loved the sisterhood part of it, the travelling. She would always sing around the house, especially around Christmas.”
She continued to say Alston had a “real problem” with being the lead singer. “They loved her voice and kept pushing her to the front, but she was shy,” she said. “My sister says my mum wanted to do the choreography and stuff like that.”
Spector gave The Crystals name to Darlene Love after the commercial failure of ‘He Hit Me’, but the band were later allowed to use it again in 1963. They split in 1968.
Alston’s funeral is to be held today (February 23), where her former bandmate Dee Dee Kennibrew will speak.