Zola Taylor, who broke gender barriers in the 1950s as a member of The Platters, harmonizing with her male colleagues on hits like "The Great Pretender," has died, her nephew said Tuesday. She was 69.
Taylor, who later gained attention of a different sort as one of three women who claimed to be pop idol Frankie Lymon's widow, died Monday, said her nephew Alfie Robinson, after being bedridden following several strokes. She died at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside County from complications of pneumonia, he said.
Founding Platters member Herb Reed said he spotted Taylor rehearsing with a girl group in 1955 and knew immediately she had the charisma and vocal chops the R&B group needed.
"She was a very pretty young lady and what a great, great smile," Reed said. "And she had this baby voice that everyone liked."
The Great Pretender raced to the No. 1 spot on both R & B and pop music charts. "We were the first Afro-American group to have a girl singer," Reed said. "That was the talk of the nation."