He's a Rebel

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"He's a Rebel"
He's a rebel.jpg
Single by The Crystals
from the album He's a Rebel
Released August 1962
Format 7" single
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:31
Label Philles
Songwriter(s) Gene Pitney
Producer(s) Phil Spector
The Crystals singles chronology
"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)"
"He's a Rebel"
"He's Sure the Boy I Love"
"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)"
"He's a Rebel"
"He's Sure the Boy I Love"
Audio sample

"He's a Rebel" is a song written by Gene Pitney that was originally recorded by the girl group the Blossoms. Produced by Phil Spector, their version was issued as a single credited to the Crystals, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1962. It was Spector's first number one hit since "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (1958).

In 2004, "He's a Rebel" was ranked No. 263 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1] Billboard named the song #31 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[2]


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 he is sweet and faithful and vows to be the same towards him. 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 wrote "He's a Rebel" for The Shirelles, but they declined. Spector learned Vikki Carr was to record it for Liberty Records as her debut, and wanted his own version on sale first. The Crystals were touring on the east coast of the USA at the time, so Spector had The Blossoms, a Los Angeles group, record the track. He credited The Crystals on the record; Mary Thomas recalled that "our mouths fell open" when she and her groupmates heard a 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 could not mimic Blossoms lead singer Darlene Love. For this reason, 15-year-old Dolores "LaLa" Brooks became the lead singer the following year with the follow-up "Then He Kissed Me".

"He's a Rebel" 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 was Pitney's "Only Love Can Break a Heart", giving him (as a songwriter or performer) the two top-selling singles in the U.S. (Pitney never hit the U.S. No. 1 spot as a performer). In the United Kingdom, "He's a Rebel" peaked at 19.


Cover versions[edit]

Vicki Carr covered the song in 1962 with a band that included sometime Wrecking Crew drummer Earl Palmer.[5] Her version reached #115 in the USA but in Australia her version reached #05 in 1962.

Debbie Byrne covered the song on her album, She's a Rebel (1974).

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

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

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

Maureen McGovern recorded a cover on her 1979 album. Maureen McGovern

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

In 2011, the song was sampled by electro-rap duo Chiddy Bang for "Rebel."[6]

Rapper G-Eazy samples the song in his song "Rebel"

American pop punk band Chumped performed a version of the song in August 2015 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[7]


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

The song is featured in the American avant-garde film Scorpio Rising, directed by Kenneth Anger.

The lyric "He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good" is 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 is song by three chorus girls named Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon after the sixties girl groups.

The song was used in The Simpsons episode The Haw-Hawed Couple as Bart and Nelson walk through the corridors of the elementary school parodying a scene from Goodfellas.


  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  2. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2017. 
  3. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7. 
  4. ^ ‘’Phil Spector: Back to MONO (1958–1969)’’ ABKCO Records, 1991, liner notes
  5. ^ Scherman, Tony, Backbeat: The Earl Palmer Story, forward by Wynton Marsalis, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1999 p. 176
  6. ^ Luis Tovar. "MP3: Chiddy Bang – "Rebel" at Pretty Much Amazing | PMA". Prettymuchamazing.com. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  7. ^ Anthony, David (11 August 2015). "Chumped covers The Crystals". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  • 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