He's a Rebel

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Not to be confused with He's a Rebel (Donna Summer song).
"He's a Rebel"
Single by The Crystals
Released August 1962
Format 7" single
Genre Rock and Roll
Length 2:31
Label Philles
Writer(s) Gene Pitney
Producer(s) Phil Spector

"He's a Rebel" is a pop/rock song credited to the girl group The Crystals (although actually recorded by The Blossoms), reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1962. Written by Gene Pitney and produced by Phil Spector, it is considered one of the definitive examples of the Spector-produced girl group sound.

In 2004, the song was ranked No. 263 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1]


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 that he is sweet and faithful, and she vows to be the same towards him. Studio musician Steve Douglas performs a saxophone solo during the song's bridge. The piano riff at the beginning was contributed by Al DeLory. Unusually for Spector productions, no strings played on the track.

Pitney had originally written "He's a Rebel" for The Shirelles, but they declined. Spector learned that Vikki Carr was soon to record the song for Liberty Records as her debut single, and decided he had to rush his own version to stores. The Crystals were touring on the east coast at the time, and so Spector instead had The Blossoms, a Los Angeles-based group record the track. Spector gave The Crystals credit on the record; Mary Thomas later recalled that "our mouths fell open" when she and her groupmates heard a radio disc jockey announce "the new Crystals song." The quintet was then obliged to add "He's a Rebel" to their live repertoire, even though lead singer Barbara Alston's soft voice could not mimic Blossoms lead singer Darlene Love's hearty delivery. For this reason, fifteen-year-old Dolores "LaLa" Brooks was promoted to the role of lead singer the following year starting with their follow-up single "Then He Kissed Me".

The single, with the artist listed simply as "The Crystals," was released in late August 1962, with the b-side "I Love You Eddie." By November 3, "He's a Rebel" had reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The number two song that week was Gene Pitney's "Only Love Can Break a Heart", giving him (as a songwriter and/or performer) the two top-selling singles in the U.S. Pitney would never hit No. 1 as a performer. In the United Kingdom, "He's a Rebel" peaked at No. 19.


Cover versions[edit]

Barbi Benton recorded a cover on her 1976 album Something New.

In 1977, The Boones recorded a cover version. It was published as the B Side of the Debby Boone single "You Light Up My Life". After releasing Boone's debut album, a cover of the ABBA song "Hasta Mañana" replaced "He's a Rebel" in a later pressing of the single.

Also in 1977, Los Angeles-based Punk band the Zippers recorded a cover version.

Maureen McGovern recorded a cover version on her 1979 self-titled album.

Alisha's Attic recorded a cover version for the soundtrack to the 1997 film Bean. The Morning Benders also covered the song in their Bedroom Covers EP (2008).

In 2011, the song was sampled by electro-rap duo Chiddy Bang for their song, "Rebel." [3]


The song is cited in the movie True Romance by the character of Alabama when Clarence asks her what kind of music she likes.

The lyric from the song "He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good" is referenced in the song "Dentist!" from the musical Little Shop of Horrors as "He's a dentist and he'll never ever be any good." This lyric is song by the three chorus girls who are named Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon after the sixties girl groups.

The song was also used in The Simpsons episode The Haw-Hawed Couple when Bart and Nelson were walking through the back corridors of the elementary school parodying a scene from Goodfellas.


"He's a Rebel", The Crystals. 29 second extract.

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  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  2. ^ ‘’Phil Spector: Back to MONO (1958-1969)’’ ABKCO Records, 1991, liner notes
  3. ^ Luis Tovar. "MP3: Chiddy Bang – "Rebel" at Pretty Much Amazing | PMA". Prettymuchamazing.com. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  • Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books.
  • Ribowsky, Mark (2000). He's A Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer. Cooper Square Press.
  • Unterburg, Richie. Allmusic review. Retrieved April 3, 2007.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
November 3, 1962 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons