Rosa Lee Hawkins, an original member of the New Orleans R&B vocal trio The Dixie Cups, died Tuesday at a hospital in Tampa, Florida, NOLA.com reports. She was 76.
Rosa’s older sister and fellow original Dixie Cups singer Barbara Hawkins revealed that she died from internal bleeding and other complications after undergoing a surgical procedure last week.
The Dixie Cups are best known for their chart-topping 1964 smash “Chapel of Love,” as well as for their hit 1965 rendition of “Iko Iko,” which was based on a traditional Mardi Gras Indian chant.
The group also had top-40 hits in 1964 with “People Say” and “You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked at Me.”
The Dixie Cups’ third original member, Joan Marie Johnson — a cousin of the Hawkins sisters — left the group in 1966 and passed away in 2016.
Rosa Lee and Barbara Hawkins continued to perform as The Dixie Cups with various third members. The most recent lineup also featured their childhood friend Athelgra Neville, a sister of the famed New Orleans sibling group The Neville Brothers.
“The most important thing to Rosa, after her son and me and her grandchildren and nieces and nephews, was singing,” Barbara told NOLA.com. “She was very happy when she was onstage. Her whole attitude and demeanor were different because she was doing something she loved.”
The Dixie Cups hadn’t performed live since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they had been scheduled to take part in the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Barbara says she and Athelgra still plan to perform in her honor.
“[Rosa] had said, ‘I’ll probably go before you, but please don’t stop singing,’” noted Barbara. “I love her like I still love my mom…I will always love her.”
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