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Bonnie Brown (1938 - 2016)

AP Photo / Mark Humphrey

Bonnie Brown (1938 - 2016)

Bonnie Brown, member of country music vocal group The Browns, died of complications from lung cancer on July 16, 2016, according to multiple news sources. She was 77.

The Browns, consisting of three siblings, sisters Bonnie, Maxine and brother Jim Ed, were known as one of the smoothest and charming groups in country music. They had a mainstream number one hit with the crossover folk-pop single, “The Three Bells” in 1959. The song had originated in France, and had been a hit for Edith Piaf. The Browns’ version sold more than a million copies.

Older siblings Jim Ed and Maxine had been a singing duo in their hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas before Bonnie joined them following her high school graduation. Their close harmony led to a recording contract and a string of country hits, as well as appearances on country music-themed television shows like “Ozark Jubilee.”

Following the success of “Three Bells” they made appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand.” In 1963 the trio joined the “Grand Ole Opry.”


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In 1967 the group disbanded as Jim Ed and Maxine pursued solo careers. Bonnie chose to stay home and raise a family.

“It was a hard decision to make, but I’m glad I made it,” she said in a 2015 interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The group reunited occasionally in the 1980s and in 2006 for a PBS special, “Country Pop Legends,” in which they performed their hits “The Old Lamplighter” and “Three Bells.”

The group were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Jim Ed died in June of that year from lung cancer. Bonnie announced she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer three months later, but made the trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony in October.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Gene Ring, and her brother, Jim Ed Brown. She is survived by her daughters, Kelly and Robin, several grandchildren, and her sister, Maxine Brown.

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