Mary Weiss, trailblazing frontwoman of The Shangri-Las, dies at 75

Mary Weiss, the iconic lead singer of the 1960s girl group The Shangri-Las, has passed away at the age of 75 in her hometown of Queens, New York, per The group, composed of two pairs of sisters – Mary and Betty Weiss, and Marge and Mary Ann Ganser – made an indelible mark on the music scene during their teenage years.

Signed to Red Bird Records at just 15 years old, The Shangri-Las, guided by producer George “Shadow” Morton, quickly soared to success. In August 1964, their single “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” reached No. 5 in the US and No. 14 in the UK, featuring a young, unknown session musician named Billy Joel on an early demo version. The subsequent month witnessed their pinnacle achievement, as “Leader of the Pack” secured the No. 1 spot.

The Shangri-Las’ meteoric rise led to performances alongside legendary acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and James Brown by the end of 1964. While subsequent releases maintained their distinctive style, the group disbanded in 1968, partly due to disagreements over royalty payments.

Despite their relatively brief career, The Shangri-Las left an enduring impact. Embracing a “tough girl” image, their songs addressed themes of alienation and loneliness, influencing punk bands like the New York Dolls, Ramones, Blondie and The Go Go’s. Several artistes, including The Damned, Aerosmith, Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Kathleen Hanna, and Amy Winehouse, acknowledged or covered their work.

In 2007, Mary Weiss returned to the music scene, releasing the solo album “Dangerous Game” with support from Tennessee rock band Reigning Sound. Miriam Linna of Norton Records confirmed Weiss’s passing, marking the end of an era for a musical pioneer.


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