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Mary Weiss, Lead Singer of The Shangri-Las, Dead at 75

Mary Weiss, leader of Sixties New York band Shangri-Las, has died at the age of 75.

Her death was confirmed to Rolling Stone on Friday by Miriam Linna of Norton Records label, which released the singer’s only solo album Dangerous Game, in 2007. “Mary was an icon, a hero, a heroine, to both young men and women of my generation and of all generations,” Linna said.

The Instagram account for Ronnie Spector, who co-founded girl group the Ronettes and died in January 2022, shared a tribute following news of Weiss’ death. “We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Mary Weiss’ passing,” read the caption alongside a black-and-white photo of Weiss. “She and Ronnie were kindred spirits; two fearless bad girls of the 60s. Join us as we spin the Shangri-Las in her honor.”

The Shangri-Las encapsulated the height of the early-Sixties trend for teen tragedies, with group members Weiss, Elizabeth “Betty” Weiss, Marguerite “Marge” Ganser, and Mary Ann Ganser documenting their melodramas with songs “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”, “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”, and 1964’s “Leader of the Pack” — a track that went on to become a Number One hit that year.  In 2021, Rolling Stone named the song amount its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at number 316.

Then, in 1968, the girl group disbanded amid legal issues, according to a 2007 New York Magazine interview. According to the publication, Weiss moved to San Francisco and eventually became a secretary at an architecture firm after landing in New York.

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Perhaps obviously, she moved to San Francisco, where she spent a year and a half roller-skating through Golden Gate Park, pursuing “peace and love and all that hippie stuff—and floundering,” before returning to Manhattan (“Where else was I going to go?”) and living in weekly-rate hotels like the Warwick that were popular with musicians.

Her comeback arrived in 2007 following a chance run-in with Billy Miller, head of the Brooklyn indie label Norton, that lead to her final solo album. “I wanted to do a mix of new with old,” Weiss told NY Mag. “Why walk into the studio to do old things? What’s the point?”

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