RIP: Fayette Pinkney of The Three Degrees

hree_Degrees_-_The_Best_of_the_Three_Degrees.jpgFayette Pinkney, one of the original members of the Three Degrees, known around the world most prominently for their hit "When Will I See You Again," has died at age 61 of respiratory failure at a hospital in her native Pennsylvania. 

hree_Degrees_-_The_Best_of_the_Three_Degrees.jpgFayette Pinkney, one of the original members of the Three Degrees, known around the world most prominently for their hit "When Will I See You Again," has died at age 61 of respiratory failure at a hospital in her native Pennsylvania. 

In 1963, Pinckney, Linda Turner, Shirley Poole, then in their early teens, were brought together by veteran writer/producer Richard Barrett as the vehicles for his vision of creating the next great girl group.  Turner and Poole were quickly replaced by Helen Scott and Janet Harmon, and Barrett began the process of molding the trio into a regional favorite, training them extensively and booking them at record shops and talent contests throughout the Eastern United States.

The group was signed by Philly-based Swan Records in the mid-60s and scored a regional hit with "Gee Baby," working with a number of great local musicians, some of whom would become the backbone of the Philadelphia soul movement of the 70s.  In 1966 Scott temporarily left the group and was replaced by Sheila Ferguson, already an accomplished solo singer, and Valerie Holiday took over Harmon's slot.  The act was then signed by Roulette Records and in 1970 scored their first major national hit, a top 5 remake of the Chantels' "Maybe." They followed later that year with the popular "You're the One," and landed a brief appearance singing in the Gene Hackman hit movie The French Connection.

A major career move for the Three Degrees was their signing by Gamble & Huff's up-and-coming Philadelphia International Records in 1972.  They made an immediate splash with the disco hit "Dirty Ol' Man" before joining with MFSB (the Philadelphia International house band) to record the Soul Train theme song "TSOP," which became an across-the-board #1 hit.  They then followed the next year with what would become their signature song, the sophisticated ballad "When Will I See You Again," one of the greatest songs ever to come from Philadelphia, and the group's biggest international hit.

Pinkney left the group by the late 70s, issuing the solo album One Degree in 1979. She reportedly later went on to earn a master's degree and served as an educator until the time of her death.

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