He's a Rebel

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"He's a Rebel"
He's a rebel.jpg
Single by The Crystals
from the album He's a Rebel
B-side"I Love You Eddie"
ReleasedAugust 1962
GenreRock and roll
Songwriter(s)Gene Pitney
Producer(s)Phil Spector
The Crystals singles chronology
"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)"
"He's a Rebel"
"He's Sure the Boy I Love"
Audio sample
He's a Rebel

"He's a Rebel" is a song written by Gene Pitney that was originally recorded by the girl group the Blossoms. Produced by Phil Spector, their version was issued as a single credited to the Crystals, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1962. It was Spector's second chart-topper after "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (1958).

In 2004, "He's a Rebel" was ranked No. 263 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1] Billboard named the song No. 31 on its list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[2]


The song is about a girl in love with a young man who spurns society's conventions. Despite his being misunderstood by others, the singer claims he is sweet and faithful and vows to be the same towards him. Steve Douglas performs a saxophone solo during the song's bridge. The piano riff at the beginning was contributed by Al DeLory. Unusual for Spector productions, no strings played on the track.

Pitney wrote "He's a Rebel" for The Shirelles, but they declined. Spector learned Vikki Carr was to record it for Liberty Records as her debut, and wanted his own version on sale first.[3] The Crystals were touring on the east coast of the US at the time, so Spector had The Blossoms, a Los Angeles group, record the track with the agreement that the record would still be credited to the Crystals.[4] Mary Thomas of the Crystals recalled that "our mouths fell open" when she and her groupmates heard a disc jockey announce "the new Crystals song."[5] The quintet was then obliged to add "He's a Rebel" to their live repertoire, even though lead singer Barbara Alston could not mimic Blossoms lead singer Darlene Love. For that reason, 15-year-old Dolores "LaLa" Brooks became the lead singer the following year with the follow-up "Then He Kissed Me".

"He's a Rebel" was released in late August 1962, with the B-side "I Love You Eddie." On November 3, "He's a Rebel" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[6] The number two song was Pitney's "Only Love Can Break a Heart", giving him (as a songwriter or performer) the two top-selling singles in the U.S.[6] In the United Kingdom, "He's a Rebel" peaked at No. 19.[7]

The song and its recording was featured in a fictionalized recreation in the 2018 movie Bad Times at the El Royale. The character of Darleen Sweet was based on singer Darlene Love and the character Buddy Sunday was meant to represent producer Phil Spector.


Chart history

Cover versions

Vikki Carr also sang the song in 1962 with a band that included sometime Wrecking Crew drummer Earl Palmer.[17] Because Spector preempted the release with his version, her version reached No. 115 in the US, but in Australia her version reached No. 5 in 1962.[18]


  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 2008-06-19.[dead link]
  2. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  3. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2.
  4. ^ Browne, David (2013-06-20). "Darlene Love: Let Love Rule". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  5. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (2000). He's a Rebel: Phil Spector--Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer. Cooper Square Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4616-6103-0.
  6. ^ a b Billboard Music Week Hot 100", Billboard. November 3, 1962. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "He's a Rebel (song by The Crystals)". Music VF, US & UK hits charts. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  8. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 49-51. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7.
  9. ^ Phil Spector: Back to MONO (1958–1969) ABKCO Records, 1991, liner notes
  10. ^ CHUM Hit Parade, October 29, 1962
  11. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 27 December 1962
  12. ^ "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 10, 1962
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  16. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 29, 1962
  17. ^ Scherman, Tony, Backbeat: The Earl Palmer Story, foreword by Wynton Marsalis, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1999 p. 176
  18. ^ "He's a Rebel (song by Vikki Carr)". Music VF, US & UK hits charts. Retrieved 2020-12-18.

External links

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