Mary Weiss, who is best known as the lead singer of 1960s girls group The Shangri-Las, has passed away at the age of 75.
In a statement provided to BBC, Miriam Linna of Norton Records confirmed the news. “Mary was an icon, a hero, a heroine, to both men and women of my generation and of all generations,” she shared.
Started in 1963, The Shangri-Las comprised two sets of sisters and was formed in Queens. Among the group’s most well-known tracks was Leader of the Pack. Mary and her sister Elizabeth “Betty” were bandmates with twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser. They all attended the same school in New York City.
While performing locally, the all-girl band attracted the attention of producer Artie Ripp. He secured the group’s first record deal. Their first recording was in 1963 with Simon Says. Leader of the Pack was recorded a year later. The track was so iconic, it was placed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
Unfortunately, the group ended up calling it quits in 1968. Mary Ann notably passed away in 1970 at the age of 22. Years after Mary Ann’s passing, the group reunited in 1977 and produced some new material. But the bandmates decided to not release any of it. The original group performed together for the last time in 1989 during a reunion show hosted by Cousin Brucie.
Marguerite passed away in 1996 at the age of 48 after battling breast cancer.
Among those who gave a special tribute to Weiss was the X account of Ronnie Spector, the co-founder of the Ronettes. Spector notably died in Jan. 2022. “We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Mary Weiss’ passing,” the post reads. “She and Ronnie were kindred spirits; two fearless bad girls of the 60s. Join us as we spin the Shangri-Las in her honour.”
Mary Weiss Disagreed WIth the Idea That The Shangri-Las Bandmates Were Tough
Meanwhile, Mary Weiss once stated she disagreed with the idea that the bandmates were “tough.”
“If you look at the old tapes, I don’t think that word even came up” she explained after the band’s breakup. “Maybe it was the boots.”
Weiss released a solo album in March 2007 and during that time, she spoke about returning to the music. “When people hit their 50s, they re-evaluate,” she said during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. After the breakup of The Shangri-Las, Weiss worked more than 30 years as an architect and worked for a New York City furniture dealership. She pointed out that she worked 80 to 90 hours a week at her job.
In 2004, she decided to quit. “I needed to regroup,” Mary Weiss said about the decision. She then turned to music and began writing once again.