Shangri-Las singer, Mary Weiss, dies aged 75

The Shangri-Las in 1964, (l-r) Mary Ann Ganser, Mary Weiss and Margie Ganser (PA)
The Shangri-Las in 1964, (l-r) Mary Ann Ganser, Mary Weiss and Margie Ganser (PA)

Mary Weiss, the lead singer of 1960s pop group The Shangri-Las, has died at the age of 75.

The US girl group rose to stardom with a run of hit songs about teenage love and tragedy, including “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” and “Leader Of The Pack”, which was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s singles category.

Weiss took centre stage in the sound and look of The Shangri-Las, helping to pioneer the girl group era alongside The Ronettes.

On Friday, Miriam Linna of Norton Records confirmed Weiss’ death to the PA news agency.

“Mary was an icon, a hero, a heroine, to both young men and women of my generation and of all generations,” Linna said in a statement given to US outlets.

Meanwhile, the official Instagram for Ronnie Spector, who co-founded The Ronettes and died in January 2022, shared a tribute following the news.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Mary Weiss’ passing. She and Ronnie were kindred spirits; two fearless bad girls of the Sixties. Join us as we spin the Shangri-Las in her honour,” the statement said.

The group, known as the tough girls of the Sixties pop scene, were made up of two sets of sisters, Mary and Elizabeth Weiss, and twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser, forming in the Queens borough of New York City.

Mary Weiss, Mary Ann Gonser and Margie Gonser in 1964 (PA)
Mary Weiss, Mary Ann Gonser and Margie Gonser in 1964 (PA)

Weiss was born in New York in 1948 and grew up in Queens, where she sang in school plays and choirs. She and her sister Betty became good friends with the Gasner twins while in school, and the four of them began singing together.

Later, they met a local producer named Artie Ripp and they signed with Kama Sutra Productions.

After a string of hits including “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” and “Out In The Streets”, alongside opening for the Rolling Stones on their second 1964 US tour, Shangri-Las split up.

That year, the band’s hit song “Leader of the Pack” became a Number One hit.

When the band split in 1968, Weiss became largely absent from the music industry for many decades and went to live in San Francisco to try a new lifestyle.

She did occasionally perform with The Shangri-Las when the group reunited a handful of times in the Seventies and Eighties.

She made a comeback in 2007 when she released her first solo record with Norton Records titled Dangerous Game, to critical acclaim.

“I wanted to do a mix of new with old,” Weiss told New York Magazine in 2007. “Why walk into the studio to do old things? What’s the point?”

With additional reporting from PA news agency