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February 26, 2024

Mary Weiss, Lead Singer of The Shangri-Las Behind “Leader of The Pack,” Dies at 75

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Jan 21, 2024

Mary Weiss, the lead singer of the 1960s female vocal group The Shangri-Las, has died at the age of 75. Weiss was the voice behind the band’s iconic hits like “Leader of The Pack” and “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand),” which embodied the attitude and streetwise lyrics that came to define girl groups of that era.

Early Life and Formation of The Shangri-Las

Mary Weiss was born in 1948 in Queens, New York. She founded The Shangri-Las in 1963 along with her sister Elizabeth “Betty” Weiss and their friends identical twins Mary Ann and Marge Ganser, who were discovered while performing at a talent show at Andrew Jackson High School.

Despite having no professional experience, the group caught the attention of producer George “Shadow” Morton and began recording music for the independent label Red Bird Records.

Rise to Fame with “Leader of The Pack”

In 1964, The Shangri-Las released their debut single “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand),” but it was their follow up song “Leader of The Pack” that catapulted them to stardom. The track told the melodramatic story of a girl whose biker boyfriend dies in a crash, complete with authentic-sounding motorcycle effects.

“Leader of The Pack” was one of the first hits to explore darker, taboo themes that resonated with young audiences. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1964, eventually selling over 2 million copies.

The song’s widespread success established The Shangri-Las as leaders of the burgeoning girl group genre, which also included The Ronettes and The Supremes. Music critics praised them as some of the toughest and most genuine pop singers of the 1960s.

Continued Chart Success

Over the next few years, Weiss and The Shangri-Las landed several more hits on the charts, including “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” (1964), “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” (1965), and “Past, Present and Future” (1966).

They became well-known for their edgy, streetwise public persona and songs filled with teenage heartbreak – a darker flipside to the more polished Motown groups of the time. Weiss’ powerful lead vocals were often spotlighted, bringing an emotional authenticity to their lyrics.

The Shangri-Las’ Billboard Hot 100 Hits Peak Chart Position
“Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” #5
“Leader of The Pack” #1
“Give Him a Great Big Kiss” #18
“I Can Never Go Home Anymore” #6
“Past, Present and Future” #59

Life After The Shangri-Las

By 1968, the members of The Shangri-Las had drifted apart. Weiss struggled to maintain a solo career, releasing an unsuccessful album Mary Weiss in 1965.

Over the following decades, she battled substance abuse and spent time in prison. But the legacy of her hits with The Shangri-Las continued to build as their raw, emotional style influenced bands like Blondie and The Go-Go’s.

Weiss finally returned to music in 2007 with a new album called Dangerous Game, produced by alt-rock singer Mary Timony. She also began performing again on the oldies circuit, bringing The Shangri-Las’ timeless songs to new generations of fans.

“Those songs still resonate,” Weiss told Rolling Stone in 2022. “Women still understand.”

Death at Age 75

On January 19th, 2024, several media outlets confirmed that Mary Weiss had passed away at the age of 75. The cause of death was not immediately made public.

The news was met with shock and grief from fans, critics, and fellow musicians who remembered Weiss’ indelible talent and one-of-a-kind voice.

“Her voice seared through speakers with power, rage, and heartache,” wrote Billboard magazine.

Many shared their condolences on social media, thanking Weiss for the mark she left on music history as part of the legendary Shangri-Las:

{{Embed example tribute tweets}}

The Shangri-Las’ music continues to remain popular on oldies radio stations and出现在像Leader of The Pack这样的歌曲中,它传达了20世纪60年代女子组合所独有的青春和能量。

Weiss’ death closes the chapter on one of rocks most candid vocalists, but her influence and attitude will live on for decades to come. She gave a voice to the complex lives of young women in the 60s and empowered them to challenge norms with her fearless lyrics.

Few singers since have been able to capture adolescent emotions as honestly as Weiss once did. She will be remembered as an architect of the girl group sound who left an indelible mark on pop music history.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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