Going to the chapel… and we’re… gonna get married….going to chapel… of love!
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
Those harmonious words sung by the harmonious girl group trio, The Dixie Cups, are emblazoned in the hearts and minds of many. Like wedding bells, they ring and chime anytime the thought of matrimony comes into play.
But what is the story behind the blissful song? And who wrote it, bringing it to life?
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The Dixie Cups
Of course, the most famous rendition of the song is performed by the all-female New Orleans R&B pop-soul trio The Dixie Cups. The song was released on the 11-track album of the same name (Chapel of Love), released in April 1964 and recorded just two months prior in February. Their recording went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending three weeks there and knocking the Beatles out of the top spot.
But The Dixie Cups didn’t originally pen the tune. Instead, it was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and controversial super-producer Phil Spector. Barry, an accomplished songwriter, also penned classics like “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Do Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Sugar, Sugar.” Barry often worked with his wife (Greenwich) and Spector on many of these. Together, the three were powerhouses in the ’60s soul-pop and R&B genres.
As for “Chapel of Love,” the song talks about the joy that comes with one’s wedding day.
Barry and Greenwich
Written by husband and wife team Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the song was born from their bond. The two had recently gotten married and so wedding bells were in the air and in their ears.
To wit, Barry said of the time, “the concept of marriage was very much in my head.”
Though the song wasn’t originally written for The Dixie Cups (see below), the track became a hit thanks to the all-girl group.
The thing is, The Dixie Cups weren’t even The Dixie Cups when they received the song from Barry, Greenwich, and Spector. At first, they were known as The Mel-Tones. Comprised of Barbara Ann Hawkins, Rosa Lee Hawkins, and Joan Marie Johnson, the trio of singers made the trek from The Crescent City to New York City to get a record deal.
They were given the song and passed their audition. Then they practiced the tune again with Barry and Greenwich, recorded the song with an arrangement by Wardell Quezergue, and the single was tracked. Two months later it was released and The Mel-Tones were given a cuter, more memorable name: The Dixie Cups.
Prior to The Dixie Cups, legendary singer Darlene Love recorded a version of the song in April of 1963. But her version never saw the light of day for another 30 years, or so, released in 1991. According to lore, Phil Spector didn’t like Love’s version and so it was shelved in favor of The Dixie Cups a year later.
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While The Dixie Cups’ version has appeared in films like Full Metal Jacket and Father of the Bride, it has been recorded by numerous bands over the years.
One notable version was recorded by singer and actress Bette Midler, who put it on wax for her 1972 debut studio album, The Divine Miss M. That rendition was produced by Barry Manilow.
Another version was recorded by The Beach Boys, and released on their 1976 studio album, 15 Big Ones.
The Ronettes covered the song, too, as did Elton John for the soundtrack of the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral, in 1994.
But while so many artists had a hand in the song, it’s the dulcet tones produced by the New Orleans female trio that has made the song timeless and forever. Just like a good marriage.
Photo by James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images