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Mary Weiss, lead singer of The Shangri-Las, has died

Three members of the Shangri-Las are seen on a visit to London in 1964, with Mary Weiss pictured in between twins Marge and Mary Anne Ganser.
Ron Case
Getty Images
Three members of the Shangri-Las are seen on a visit to London in 1964, with Mary Weiss pictured in between twins Marge and Mary Anne Ganser.

Mary Weiss, the former lead singer of the 1960s pop girl group The Shangri-Las, died on Friday. She was reportedly 75 years old.

Her husband, Ed Ryan, confirmed her death to NPR, but offered no further information.

Weiss rose to fame with The Shangri-Las as a teenager, powering hits about teenage love and tragedy including "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" and "Leader of the Pack."

The group was made up of two sets of sisters, Mary and Betty Weiss, and twins Marge and Mary Ann Ganser, who first met in elementary school. Formed in the working-class New York City borough of Queens, The Shangri-Las' tough-girl image helped them stand out from other girl groups.

Weiss was just 15 when she recorded the group's first hit, "Remember," in 1964. As she told Fresh Air host Terry Gross in 2007, Weiss preferred tailored men's slacks to women's high-rise pants and chiffon dresses, but "never thought much about image."

"You saw other groups where they had money and support behind them were extremely well dressed from the beginning — we were out there pretty much in our street clothes," Weiss said. "But then when we started making money, we designed our own clothes and had them made."

By 1968, the group disbanded in the face of litigation — that Weiss has said she was prevented from discussing even decades later — leaving her disillusioned with the industry.

She got a job in the accounting department of an architectural firm where she she worked her way up to chief purchasing agent, she told Fresh Air.

In 2007, she returned to music with a debut solo album Dangerous Game. For her comeback, Weiss caught up to the times. She created her own page on the social media platform MySpace — where, she told New York Magazine at the time, she found an appetite for her music — and took her new act to the indie-music festival South by Southwest in Austin.

"I just want to have fun now. And I'm going to. People can take advantage of you in your youth," Weiss told the magazine. "And they're not going to do it again. There are benefits to being a grown-up."

"Remembering Mary Weiss with much love and affection. Mary was the ultimate," Miriam Linna, who runs Norton Records, Weiss' record label, said in a post on Facebook.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emma Bowman
[Copyright 2024 NPR]