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sheila

Sheila Ferguson (1947- ) is an American R&B and disco singer, better known in Britain than in her home country. She is the one who sang “When Will I See You Again” (1974) as the lead singer of the Three Degrees. She is also the first black woman to have her own sitcom in Britain, “Land of Hope and Gloria” (1992).

She was with the Three Degrees for 20 years, from 1966 to 1986, being the lead singer for most of it. They were a Philadelphia copy of the Supremes, the creation of doo-wop producer Richard Barrett, who also brought the world Frankie Lymon, the Chantels and Little Anthony.

At first the Three Degrees had no big hit songs. They were in Las Vegas opening for the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Wayne Newton. There they perfected their act.

Then one day Gamble and Huff saw them perform. They were songwriters and music producers from Philadelphia who gave us such songs as “Me and Mrs Jones” (1972), “If  You Don’t Know Me By Now” (1972) and “Love Train” (1973). They wanted to write a song for the Three Degrees: “When Will I See You Again”.

It was a hit first in Britain, where it went to number one, and then in America, where it reached number two. They had another hit that year in both countries: “T.S.O.P”, where they sang little more than “Doo-doo-doo-dah-doo, doo-doo, it’s time to get down”.

In America they pretty much sank out of sight after that, but in Britain they became the biggest girl group since the Supremes! They went on to have a string of hits there in the late 1970s, like “Take Good Care of Yourself” (1975), “Woman in Love” (1979) and “My Simple Heart” (1979).

Britain had never seen black women quite like them before: the big hair, the nails, the big red lips. They performed in towns that had never seen anything so Hollywood before except on television. Their years in Vegas were paying off. And their most famous fan, as it turned out, was Prince Charles himself. He even invited them to the palace to perform. Being a prince has its advantages.

But then the glory days came to an end: Ferguson was having an affair with Barrett, who was still managing them. It was tearing the group apart: she had to choose between  the Three Degrees or Barrett. She chose the Three Degrees and in 1981 they fired Barrett. It proved to be a huge blow. Ferguson turned to drink. In 1986 she left the Three Degrees and they went on without her. The Three Degrees are still together today.

Ferguson married an Englishman, settled down in Britain and brought up her twin daughters. To help them know their roots she wrote a cook book about soul food. In the 1990s she got into acting, both on the London stage and on British television. In 2007 she came out with her first album since her Three Degrees days, “New Kind of Medicine”.

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Ooo, haah
Haah, ooo precious moments

When will I see you again
When will we share precious moments
Will I have to wait forever
Will I have to suffer and cry the whole night through

When will I see you again
When will our hearts beat together
Are we in love or just friends
Is this my beginning or is this the end
When will I see you again
When will I see you again
When will I see you again

Haah, ooo precious moments

Are we in love or just friends
Is this my beginning or is this the end
When will I see you again
When will I see you again
Sweet sweet love
When will I see you again
Ooo, Come on, come on
When will I see you again
Tell me again
When will I see you again

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