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He's So Fine by The Chiffons

Album: He's So FineReleased: 1963Charted:
1
16
  • This was written by a young songwriter named Ronnie Mack, who died of cancer shortly after it was released. Mack, born July 11, 1940, was from The Bronx, and in 1960 he assembled three girls from the local James Monroe High School to form The Chiffons: 14-year-old Judy Craig and 13-year-olds Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee. In 1962, Mack pitched some of his songs to Bright Tunes Productions, which was run by The Tokens - the group had a #1 hit the previous year with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and Capitol Records gave them a 10-record production contract (they already recorded 9 of their 10 - all flops). They liked his song "Oh My Lover," and decided to record it with another one of his songs, "He's So Fine" as the B-side.

    Mack added a fourth girl to the group as a ringer: Sylvia Peterson, who had sung with the Philadelphia group Little Jimmy and The Tops. Now a quartet, The Chiffons recorded the songs with The Tokens at Capitol's studio in August 1962.

    Once the songs were recorded, it was clear that "He's So Fine" was the hit, but The Tokens couldn't find a taker. Capitol Records was the obvious choice and had dibs on the song, but they didn't want it - their boss thought it was "too trite." "They wrote us a letter to tell us how bad it stunk," said Philip Margo of The Tokens. "Then Victor turned it down, Columbia turned it down, ABC-Paramount turned it down. The master stayed in the can for six months before a small, independent company named Laurie took it."

    According to Margo, the song was finally released in February 1963 (some sources say December 1962), and it was a massive hit, going to #1 in the US for four weeks and also hitting #1 on the R&B charts.

    For Ronnie Mack, this was a dream come true. His sister Dotty Sanders told us: "I can remember me and my brother and sisters looking out the window waiting to see our mother come home from cleaning someone's house. Sometimes her knees would be bleeding and that would hurt my brother so bad, because with my father being dead, he knew he was now the man of the family.

    In 1963 my brother's dream came true. He created a group called The Chiffons and he wrote a song for them that became the number one record in the world: 'He's So Fine.'

    Ronnie was able to do all the things he had promised my mother. I can remember one night he came home and woke me and my youngest sister Brenda up and told us to go get in bed with our mother, then he opened this big suitcase and poured money all over us.

    What I need you to know is that this blessing didn't come easy for my brother. There were many times he was laughed at because of the clothes he wore and the way he looked, but he had a dream and he never gave up on it.

    Ronnie Mack died at the age of 23. At the time of his death he had the number one record around the world. He never got the chance to see his Gold Record, although his production company, Bright Tunes Production, had done a rush job on getting it made, but unfortunately by that time cancer had taken over his body and mind." (For photos and more, check out "He's So Fine: The Ronnie Mack Story.")
  • Recalling the time he saw Ronnie Mack's songs for the first time, Jay Siegel of The Tokens told us: "He came up with a composition notebook with all these amazing songs in it. They had the most incredible lyrics; not intellectual lyrics, but just the things that people speak of in everyday language." He told us that if Mack lived, "He would have sustained and would have been one of the most successful songwriters of the '60s."
  • This song is famous for its "Doo-Lang Doo-Lang" harmony vocals. Jay Siegel says that originally, that was just a background part for the song, but a Capitol Records engineer named Johnny Cue suggested starting the song that way, which they did, creating one of the most famous vocal lines of the early-'60s.
  • In 1971, George Harrison released "My Sweet Lord," which prompted Bright Tunes Music, which owned the publishing rights to "He's So Fine," to sue for plagiarism, as the songs were musically similar. The case wasn't heard until 1976, as Bright Tunes had gone into receivership. Harrison proved that he was not trying to copy "He's So Fine," but the judge ruled that his intent was irrelevant, as he copied the distinct musical patterns in the song. The award was for about $1.6 million, but then Allen Klein, who was George Harrison's embittered former manager, bought Bright Tunes, prompting a lawsuit from Harrison. The judge ruled that Klein could not profit from the case, and Harrison was ordered to pay the amount Klien paid for the company: $587,000.
  • The Tokens produced this song and played on it.
  • Carole King, who was friends with The Tokens, played piano on this track. Before she became a popular solo artist, King was a prominent songwriter and also did work as a piano player and backup singer. King wrote the next Chiffons hit, "One Fine Day."
  • In 1975, after the plagiarism lawsuit was filed, The Chiffons recorded a cover of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Their version was flute-heavy and with a totally different arrangement, and it went nowhere.
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Comments: 31

On February 11th 1964, the Chiffons were one of the opening acts at a concert* held at the Washington Colosseum in Washington, DC...
At the time the quartet didn't have a record on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; just over three weeks earlier on January 18th their "I Have A Boyfriend" was at #52 on the Top 100, and that was also the song's last day on the chart {on December 29th, 1963 it had peaked at #36 for one week}...
Between 1960 and 1966 the Bronx-area quartet had ten Top 100 records; two made the Top 10, and both had 'fine' it their title, "He's So Fine" {#1 for 4 weeks in 1963} and "One Fine Day" {#5, also in 1963}...
* Oh Yeah!, the concert's headliner act were a British quartet named the Beatles, it was their first concert held in the U.S.A. {and just two days after their first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On October 8th 1988, the weekly sitcom 'Empty Nest' premiered on the NBC-TV network...
The series ran for seven seasons with a total of 170 episodes...
It won one Golden Globe Award; Richard Mulligan for 'Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series'...
Kristy McNichol played Barbara Weston on the series; and ten years earlier on July 16th, 1978 she entered, in a duet with her brother Jimmy, Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart with a covered version of "He's So Fine", it debut at #94, three weeks later on August 6th it would peak at #70 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 8 weeks...
It was the duo's only Top 100 record.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On May 1st 1966, "Sweet Talkin' Guy" by the Chiffons Bishop entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 at position #86; and on June 19th it peaked at #10 (for 1 week) and also spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
The quartet had two other Top 10 hits, and both were in 1963; "He's So Fine" (#1 for 4 weeks) and "One Fine Day" (#5)...
Also in 1963 they released two records under the name 'The Four Pennies'; "My Block" (peaked at #67) and "When The Boy's Happy (The Girl's Happy Too)" (it reached #95 on its one week on the Top 100).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On February 17th 1963, "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and on March 24th it peaked at #1 (for 4 weeks) and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 9 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
And on April 6th it reached #1 (again for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Hot R&B chart...
Three covered versions have charted; Jody Miller (#53 in 1971), Kristy & Jimmy McNichol (#70 in 1978), and Jane Olivor (#77 in 1978)...
R.I.P. group member Barbara Lee; who passed away on May 15th, 1992, just one day before her 45th birthday.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I bought the single back in 1963. I still love the record in 2014 & hear it from time to time on many golden oldies radio stations. I even saw The Chiffons in concert for one of those PBS-TV "oldies" documentaries of great Sixties hits (i.e., The Chiffons, The Orlons, The Essex, The Exciters, & The Shirelles). The Chiffons had a very strong vocal sound in the Girl Group era whereas most other girl groups sounded soft & lilting. I think the Chiffons & The Orlons were great representatives of the great Girl Group Sounds.Randy - Fayettevile, Ar
Many songs are very similar to others, but the "My Sweet Lord" and "He's So Fine" business went 'way 'way over the line. Anyone who thinks key, tempo and lyrics have anything to do with the plagiarism of the music... gosh, where do I begin?Alex - Daly City, Ca
I regret to say, George Harrison made a subconscious plariarism to a simple - weak - stupid - tacky... song, as many, too many US songs in those times were. Anyway I almost can´t accept that that song could be a hit; in fact George helped it become a bit known worldwide after his "My Sweet Lord", as I, for example, heard it ("He´s So Fine") just today, Sept.23,2009, FOR THE FIRST TIME, just for some old curiosity, while I knew "MY SWEET LORD" since 1971!!! What a difference in the arrangements and in the singing way!!! The Chiffons sounded so weird, silly, weak, bad!!! Pity, that his (George´s) memory really caused him such a harm, due to having heard so many silly songs in the 50´s and early 60´s, as melodies as harmonies of both are really similar. Now, saying that "IT WON´T BE LONG" (The Beatles) was AT LEAST based on "One Fine Day", now it´s an absurd by who can´t hear/grasp music indeed; these both have NOTHING to do with each other!!! It´s really ironic and funny (the fact) that George finally bought legally the copyrights of "He´s So Fine", after having been judged and accused and so on, so that both "identical" songs, with SO DIFFERENT LYRICS, belong to him (to his estate since 2001, his death year)!!! I had NEVER heard anything about Mr. Ronald Mack instead, except now when I first heard "his" "ex"-song!!! By the way, I´d like to clarify one thing: a song is NOT music and melody; this could be called a PIECE OF MUSIC; a real SONG needs some LYRICS indeed!!!An - Garanhuns, Brazil
I once read that this recording was getting nowhere until someone suggested boosting the background vocals. It was a novel idea, and became the 'hook' of the song, and the song became a hit.Alan - Greene, Ri
so empty at the beginning, this song..just the vocal sound, drums and standup bass....
it then expands...lovely record...
Steve Dotstar - Los Angeles, Ca
I heard of a guy who loved this song and named his dog "Doo Lang."Mrcleaveland - Cleveland,
Ronald Mack died in 1963, shortly after HE'S SO FINE hit #1. How can he gain publicity by suing George Harrison if he died almost a decade before Harrison had his hit?Patience - Jamaica , Ny
"The whole thing was absurd! The only similarities is the key it's in and note patterns. "My Sweet Lord" was much slower in tempo, beats were in different places, and the lyrics weren't at all related to The Chiffon's "He's So Fine." It was just a way for Ronald Mack to gain publicity by suing a Beatle, nothing less, nothing more."

To the person that posted the above remark, you are incorrect. Ronald Mack died in mid-1963, shortly after HE'S SO FINE hit #1. There is no way Mack could have filed the lawsuit against George Harrison. MY SWEET LORD was released in 1971.
Patience - Jamaica , Ny
In the final settlement of the famous lawsuit, George bought the publishing rights to He's So Fine, to stop anyone else making royalty claims in the future.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Get over it. They are both great songs. Who cares who got the most money out of it? We wound up with TWO great songs.
-Texas Toby
John - San Antonio, Tx
John Lennon had some scathing remarks about the court case surrounding this song. He said George had gone into the whole thing with his eyes wide open, if he had changed just one or two notes no one could have touched him.Liquid Len - Ottawa, Canada
plus i think Ronald Mack and George Harrison are rather similar. They both had something to do with the similar songs, and also both died [sadly] of cancer. gosh i miss my george <<3Mad - Newcastle, England
there are definete similarities, yet i couldn't possibly believe that a person like our lovely George would copy purposely, so I believe that the song tune was simply stuck in his mind so years later he unconsciously copied it. I don't blame him whatsoever, and think George was not liable to have a fee, but just to apologise and explain himself. I feel bad that he went through all that.Mad - Newcastle, England
Ah, the "He's So Fine" / "My Sweet Lord" controversy. I think there's very little to it. It's clear that George was a victim of his excellent tune memory, in the same way that Helen Keller wrote what she thought was an original story when she was twelve, only to be accused of plagiarism when it turned out to be an (improved!!) version of a children's story someone had read to her four years earlier. This incident led Mark Twain to write his famous statement on plagiarism (saying that we all, himself included, do it without thinking).

I believe it was in the early 80s, Neil Young unconsciously reproduced an early Carly Simon number in the same way. I can't remember details, except that Miss Simon said she didn't mind.
Ekristheh - Halath, United States
I just want to point out that He didn´t write this song but a song called "This song"Asef - Silkeborg, Denmark
George Harrison wrote "This song" released on His 1976 album: "33 1/3". Inspired by the trouble this song gave Him.Asef - Silkeborg, Denmark
The melodies sound similar, but they aren't identical. They are very similar though. That was what George probably failed to notice.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Carol King not only played piano on
One Fine Day, but she wrote it too. as well
as CHAINS which the beatles covered.

As a musician, i come up with catchy melodies
all the time in which i cant for the life of me
figure out if its original or im hearing something
subconciously...i HIGHLY DOUBT that George was
intentionally stealing someones pop song for his religous tribute to his krishna beliefs.
Gonzo - Billsville, Nj
Harrison probably heard the tune in the mid sixties, forgot it, and unknowingly had the melody stuck in his head. Like many musicians, he probably improvised this song with the old tune still in his mind. Its easy to see how this could happen, a similiar thing happened to Led Zeppelin a few years later concerning a song improvised on the spur of the moment. Pretty stupid case if you ask me, Harrison's version is better anyway.Nathan - Defiance, Oh
Carole King played piano on The Chiffons' "One Fine Day," NOT on this song. "One Fine Day" originally had a vocal by Carole's babysitter Little Eva. That vocal was wiped off the instrumental track and replaced with The Chiffons.Mike - Youngstown, Oh
Jim is correct and Erik is badly mistaken. If only the melodic passages "My sweet Lord"/"He's so fine" were identical in chord pattern and melody, it conceivably could have been forgiven. But in fact, "I really want to see you" and "I don't know how I'm gonna do it" are ALSO identical in melody. That's just too much to overlook. Only George Harrison knew whether his plagiarism was "subconscious" or not. But it was plagiarism nonetheless. By the way, Erik, you're mistaken about something else, too. As Ronnie Mack had been dead for at least a decade when the lawsuit was filed, you can't accuse *him* of wanting to gain publicity by suing a Beatle. The suit was filed on behalf of his estate.Mike - Youngstown, Oh
You could sing My Sweet Lord when listening to He's So Fine exactly! There is WAY more than just a similarity here. Listen up Erik:

1)Similarity of a song has nothing to do with the temple. Whether one song is fast and the other slow, if the chord progression and melody is the same, it's still the same song.

2)Next the beat doesn't apply either. A song can be reduced to one accoustic guitar and a singer. Drums and beats come later, whatever style you choose, the song remains the same.

3)And last, we're talking about the SONG - which is the melody and chords. Lyrics have absolutely ZERO percent anything to do with it. Lyrics are just a poem. A song is the music and melody you hear. Guns'n Roses' "Don't Cry" has two versions - identical music with alternative lyrics. But they're the same song nonetheless.

I believe Harrison didn't do this on purpose, but he failed to recognize the similarities and discard the song as a result.
Jim - Edmonton, Canada
I guess if you consider paying the copywriter $587,000, your right Ton O.Carroll - Toms River, Nj
The Chiffons actually covered a version of "My Sweet Lord" after they heard Harrison's version.

And, surprisingly, "My Sweet Lord" was not only the Beatles or Beatles solo song to be inspired by the Chiffons. Lennon and McCartney were also inspired by the Chiffons' "One Fine Day" with "It Won't Be Long". But, I mean, what would be next Starr being inspired by the Chiffons' "Sweet Talking Guy" with "You're Sixteen You're Beautiful You're Mine"? But, seriously, none of the Beatles meant to copy the Chiffons not as much be inspired by them. And, seriously, I feel sorry for Harrison, because how was he supposed to know that there is a song out there that sounds like one of his songs even by big or by small?
Brandon - Seattle, Wa
The whole thing was absurd! The only similarities is the key it's in and note patterns. "My Sweet Lord" was much slower in tempo, beats were in different places, and the lyrics weren't at all related to The Chiffon's "He's So Fine." It was just a way for Ronald Mack to gain publicity by suing a Beatle, nothing less, nothing more.Erik - Davis, Ca
The judge acknowledged it was 'subconscious plagarism' on Harrison's part, but it was plagarism nonetheless. Experts on both sides agreed the melody in "He's So Fine" was unique, and since Harrison had heard the song before, it was grounds for plagarism. The case was intensely complicated, and it dragged on for over twenty years.Zulu - Allentown, Pa
I beleive George won that lawsuit. As I recall, the judge admitted the similarities, but ruled that George hadn't intentionally copied the song.Tom - Ojai,, Ca
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