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Shirley Goodman Biography, Husband, Career, and Death

Shirley Mae Goodman


Shirley Mae Goodman, an African-American R&B singer, songwriter, and actor, was born in New Orleans on June 19, 1936. Shirley Goodman was best known as one half of the 1950s combo Shirley and Lee. Later in her career, she experienced a comeback with the disco hit “Shame, Shame, Shame” in the 1970s.

After singing in various church choirs, Goodman recorded her first demo in 1950 with a group of friends. Her single voice got the attention of Aladdin Records owner Eddie Messner, who tracked her down and paired her with another school buddy, Leonard Lee, as a duo. In 1952, they released their debut single “I’m Gone,” produced by Cosimo Matassa, which peaked at number two on the Billboard R&B charts.

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The record contrasted Goodman’s soprano with Leonard’s baritone in a way that subsequent songwriters claim influenced the development of ska and reggae.

They feigned to be in love in their early songs as a couple, earning them the moniker “Sweethearts of the Blues.” By 1956, however, they had modified their sound and produced “Let the Good Times Roll,” which became their biggest success single, reaching #1 on the US R&B chart and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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They sold over a million copies and received a gold disc. However, a follow-up single, “I Feel Good” (not to be confused with their 1955 single “Feel So Good”), also charted; however, the duo’s subsequent releases were less successful, and the pair moved to the Warwick label in 1959.

Shirley Goodman Biography

In 1963, Goodman and Leonard divorced. Leonard went on to release a few solo albums with little success. Goodman relocated to California in the mid-1960s, where she worked as a session singer on records by Sonny and Cher, Dr. John, and others, as well as forming a duo with Jessie Hill for a time. She sang backup vocals on The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street album before briefly leaving the music industry.

Shirley and Lee reunited for one show only on October 15, 1971, at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The playbill featured early rock musicians such as Chuck Berry, Bobby Rydell, and Bo Diddley.

Later, as Shirley Goodman Pixley, she was approached by her friend Sylvia Robinson, formerly of the duo Mickey and Sylvia and now co-owner of the All Platinum record label, and convinced to record the lead vocal on a dance track, “Shame, Shame, Shame.” The record, credited to Shirley & Company, became an international pop hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Chart and heralding the disco era.

Shirley and Lee reunited once more on May 17, 1974, to perform “Let the Good Times Roll” on a special edition of the NBC musical series The Midnight Special.

After a few more recordings and tours, Goodman resigned from the music profession in the late 1970s after returning to New Orleans. Leonard Lee, who had become a social worker, died of a heart attack in 1976, at the age of 40.

Shirley moved to California after suffering a stroke in 1994, and died on July 5, 2005, in Los Angeles. She was laid to rest in New Orleans about a month and a half before Hurricane Katrina.


Written by How Africa News

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