Bonnie Brown, a 2015 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee with sibling trio the Browns, died Saturday, July 16th following a battle with lung cancer. She was 77.
Born July 31st in Sparkman, Arkansas, Bonnie Jean Brown joined up with older siblings Maxine and Jim Ed (already a performing duo) in 1955 to form the Browns. As a trio, they found success with “Looking Back to See” and their Top 10-charting recording of “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow” and performed regularly on the Louisiana Hayride. They followed that with the Top Five hits “I’ll Take the Chance” and “I Hear the Bluebirds Sing” under RCA Records, their polished vocal harmonies proving to be a lasting influence for numerous country performers over the years.
In 1959, the Browns scored their biggest hit with “The Three Bells,” which was based on the French language song “Les trois cloches,” previously a hit recording for Edith Piaf. Describing the birth, wedding and death of a character named Jimmy Brown, “The Three Bells” became a 10-week Number One on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and a four-week Number One on the pop chart, also reaching the top ten of the R&B chart. The success of “The Three Bells” and follow-up released like “The Old Lamplighter” led to the Browns joining the Grand Ole Opry as well as international touring opportunities.
The Browns stopped performing together in 1967, with Bonnie and Maxine returning to their native Arkansas to raise families. Jim Ed Brown continued on performing solo, earning his signature hit with “Pop a Top” in 1967 as well as other hits like “Morning” and “Southern Loving.” Jim Ed Brown revealed his own cancer diagnosis in 2014 and died June 11th, 2015 after he and the Browns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
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Bonnie Brown is survived by her two children and sister Maxine.
Funeral arrangements are pending.