The Last of the Andrews Sisters Has Died at 94

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Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 31 2013 1:26 PM

The Last of the Andrews Sisters Has Died at 94

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LaVerne, Patty, and Maxene Andrews

Photo courtesy of MCA/Wikipedia

Patty Andrews, the lead singer of the Andrews Sisters, one of the earliest and most popular girl groups of the last century, died yesterday at the age of 94. While you may not have known her by her first name, you’ve undoubtedly heard soprano Patty and her older sisters singing jaunty, lively harmonies over a doo-wop beat in movies, TV shows, or commercial jingles, bringing mid-century nostalgia to everything their voices touched.

Best known for such songs as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” the trio—which also included LaVerne, who died in 1967, and Maxene, who died in 1995—peaked in popularity during World War II, when they entertained soldiers overseas and became symbolic of a certain kind of Americana in the process.

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The Andrews Sisters initially modeled their style on a popular trio from the ’30s, the Boswell Sisters, who showcased a similarly tight-knit vocal style—and they’re sometimes mistaken for the 1950s group the McGuire sisters. But the Andrews Sisters have probably had the longest lasting legacy, racking up sales of 75 million records to go with their numerous movie appearances.

They’ve also influenced many musicians who followed them, including Bette Midler—and even Christina Aguilera, who paid tribute to the trio in her (anachronistically dirty) song and video for “Candy Man.”

The group broke up in the ’50s, reunited, and broke up again, struggling to keep up with changing musical tastes. Patty went on to a solo career, and expressed some frustration with the difficulty in establishing her own identity as a performer. She told the New York Times, “Every time we got an award, it was just one award for the three of us. We’re not glued together.”

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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