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Passings: Corneilius Harp, Lead Singer of the Marcels

Cornelius "Nene" Harp, the lead singer of the Marcels, died on Wednesday from what was reported to be natural causes. 
The Marcels were formed at Oliver Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh in 1959. The original group was unique in its day as three members were African-Americans (Harp, Ronald Mundy, Fred Johnson) and two were white (Gene Bricker, Richard Knauss). 

In early 1961, the group cut a demo of a 1933 Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song, Blue Moon. It so impressed the management at Colpix Records that they had a copy run over to disc jockey Murray "The K" Kaufman who aired it numerous times the night it was recorded.

When Colpix finally got the song into the marketplace, it became a smash hit, going to number 1 in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany and France among other countries. The group returned to the studio to record a number of other "oldies" (which, at that time, were songs from the 30's and 40's) including their second, less successful, single Summertime (#24) and Heartaches (#7 U.S. / #3 U.K.).

After Heartaches, the Marcels were not able to put another major hit on the charts, ending their association with Colpix in 1963. They also went through numerous group changes, eventually becoming an all black lineup. Harp left in 1962 and didn't return until 1975 when he made recordings again with the group. He also reunited with original members Mundy and Knauss for PBS' original Doo Wop 50 special in 1999.