Fayette Pinkney, Soulful Singer With the Three Degrees, Dies at 61

F Pinkney
July 1, 2009
By WILLIAM GRIMES

Fayette Pinkney, an original member of the Three Degrees who lent her strong, soulful voice to the 1970s hits “When Will I See You Again?” and “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia),” the theme song of the television show “Soul Train,” died Saturday in Lansdale, Pa. She was 61.

The death was confirmed by Abington Health Lansdale Hospital. The cause was acute respiratory failure, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The Three Degrees formed in the early 1960s when Ms. Pinkney, who was still going to Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, joined with Shirley Porter and Linda Turner under the management of Richard Barrett, the record producer behind the Chantels and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

For more than a decade, Ms. Pinkney was the one constant in a group whose members came and went. She sang on the group’s first single, “Gee Baby (I’m Sorry),” on its 1970 hit “Maybe” and on the hits for Philadelphia International Records in the 1970s that helped the define the Philadelphia sound.

In a statement, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the label’s founders, called the Three Degrees “our Philly sound version of Motown’s Supremes, but bigger and stronger and melodic.”

The group’s first two singles for Philadelphia International, “Dirty Ol’ Man” and “I Didn’t Know,” were modest successes, but “T.S.O.P.,” a mostly instrumental piece featuring the studio band MFSB, reached No. 1 on both the R&B and pop charts in 1974. “When Will I See You Again?,” which sold more than two million records, reached No. 2 on the pop charts that year.

Their close-harmony singing made the Three Degrees a popular nightclub act. The group performed with Engelbert Humperdinck at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas; a performance at the Copacabana in Manhattan ended up in the 1975 film “The French Connection.”

After leaving the Three Degrees and recording a solo album, “One Degree,” in 1979, Ms. Pinkney studied psychology at Temple University and earned a master’s in human services at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1985. She began working as an administrative assistant for the Medical College of Pennsylvania and rose to become an education coordinator there. She later counseled incoming patients at United Behavioral Health in Philadelphia.

She is survived by a brother, Nathaniel.

Ms. Pinkney continued to sing. “I travel with a unique group called the Intermezzo Choir Ministry,” she told the Web site thethreedegrees.com. “Yes, I do still love people and I love to make them smile.”

(Source: NY TIMES)

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Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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