For many years, when Peggy March’s smartphone chimed, the ringtone melody of “I Will Follow Him” would break the silence. Today, the snappy song still follows the longtime Fort Lauderdale resident once known as Little Peggy March.
In early 1963, at age 14, Peggy recorded the tune that swiftly soared to No. 1 on pop music charts in the United States and around the world.
Originally written as a slow-paced instrumental, Peggy’s version became a smash hit in the United States. The teen was also embraced by Japanese and European audiences—particularly in Germany, where she still maintains a small apartment.
“I was in school when I signed with RCA,” Peggy recalls in a recent interview from Marburg, Germany, where she spends several weeks a year when not in Florida. “They sent me all over the world to promote the record, which became hugely popular in Germany. The country essentially adopted me, and I’ve been part of the German recording industry ever since.”
Whether performing in Europe or the United States, audiences expect the big hit to accompany her on stage. With its upbeat melody and repetitive catchy chorus of “I love him, I love him, I love him,” the beloved song has become part of Peggy’s professional identity.
Although a few follow-up singles reached U.S. charts in the 1960s—notably “I Wish I Were a Princess” and “Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love”—none matched the success of “I Will Follow Him.”
Frequent performances in Germany raised the teen’s profile and popularity, resulting in two dozen singles hitting German charts by the decade’s end.
Married by age 20 to her manager, Arnie Harris, the couple moved to Germany. The were married 40 years before his death in 2013.
“We planned to stay for three years but extended that to 12, and lived there on and off for 35 years,” Peggy says. “Initially, I couldn’t speak a word of German, but soon became fluent.”
While she records and performs many songs in German, Peggy usually sings her big hit in English.
“German audiences just prefer the original English version,” she says. “Also, songs don’t always translate well, so if the translation doesn’t match the same number of syllables per line, that upsets the rhythm. That song just flows better in English.”
Peggy moved to Florida in the late 1990s.
“German winters are cold,” she says. “I really enjoy the warmth in Florida—all year-round.”
Peggy continues to perform throughout Europe and the U.S.—across Florida and on cruise ships to Alaska and the Caribbean—and makes time for charity work.
“I support the Vietnam veterans and charities for breast cancer, but it’s hard for me to volunteer since I’m on the road so much,” Peggy says.
On January 22, 2013—exactly 50 years after the release of her 1963 hit—Peggy recorded an anniversary video of “I Will Follow Him” in Holland.
“We updated the original to make it a little more interesting, but didn’t want to change too much,” she explains. “It was one of the shortest songs I’ve ever recorded—around two and a half minutes—so we made the new version a little longer. Instrumentally it’s pretty much the same, except there’s a key change, but I really like it.”
Peggy wasn’t initially keen on the song.
“When I walked into my producers’ office, they played it and said, ‘Peggy, this is your next hit,’” she recalls. “My sister remembers vividly that I didn’t like the song because it was too repetitious. But I was clearly wrong. We all know now that is its great hook!”
Producers of the 1992 comedy “Sister Act” must have agreed. They incorporated a new version into the movie’s soundtrack.
Performed by Deloris, played by Whoopi Goldberg, and The Sisters, it begins slowly—much like the original instrumental arrangement by French composer Franck Pourcel. The singers then crank up the pace in line with Peggy’s lively version.
“I thought it was very pretty and well done,” Peggy says. “The movie caused a resurgence in interest for my version, and I’ve always been grateful for that.”
The song’s composer—whom she once met—also was grateful Peggy kept it alive.
“I was in a song contest in Caracas, and he came up to thank me for his writing royalties that he said paid for his house and car,” Peggy says.
With all the fame that has followed Peggy because of the song, there is another record she acknowledges with pride.
The singer found her way into Guinness World Records as the youngest female vocalist with a No. 1 hit when “I Will Follow Him” topped the U.S. charts in April 1963—a month after she turned 15. That was a few months before 13-year-old Stevie Wonder topped the charts as the youngest male vocalist with his No. 1 hit “Fingertips.”
“I thought that record would have been broken a long time ago,” Peggy says. “It’s amazing to think after all these years that record is still mine.”