Rich Cronin, 36

Rich Cronin, lead member of LFO pop trio, dies of leukemia at 36

LFO lead singer Rich Cronin performs with LFO at a taping of the Family Television Awards in Beverly Hills in this August 2, 2001 file photo. Cronin, former lead singer of the boy band LFO and the writer of its 1999 hit
LFO lead singer Rich Cronin performs with LFO at a taping of the Family Television Awards in Beverly Hills in this August 2, 2001 file photo. Cronin, former lead singer of the boy band LFO and the writer of its 1999 hit "Summer Girls," died on September 8, 2010 after a battle with leukemia, celebrity news site TMZ reported. He was 35. Picture taken August 2, 2001. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT OBITUARY PROFILE SOCIETY HEALTH) (Fred Prouser - Reuters)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Friday, September 10, 2010

Rich Cronin, 36, the lead member and songwriter of the pop trio LFO, whose catchy tune "Summer Girls" was the top-selling U.S. single for six weeks in summer 1999, died of complications of leukemia Sept. 8 at a hospital in Boston.

Mr. Cronin, who stood 6-foot-3 and had bleach-tipped blond hair, wrote "Summer Girls" in his parents' basement in Kingston, Mass., while reminiscing about a fleeting romance he'd had as a teenager on the beaches of Cape Cod.

But for millions of teens and 20-somethings who first heard the song on the radio, the tune became a popular seasonal anthem with a long shelf life. This year, Billboard magazine named it one of the top 30 "summer" songs of all time.

Recorded in 45 minutes at a friend's house with a start-up studio kit, the song featured Mr. Cronin rapping non sequiturs into a sequence that he later called "a lyrical yearbook to my generation." A sample: "New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick, and I think it's fly when girls stop by for the summer, for the summer."

Over an infectious rhythmic pulse, Mr. Cronin's syrupy rap included references to the Boston Celtics, the "Home Alone" movies, Pez candy, Paul Revere, "Billy" Shakespeare's sonnets and the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing company.

Initially, Mr. Cronin said, the song was just a series of inside jokes he had written for his bandmates. How "Summer Girls" became popular on the radio, he said, was completely by chance.

A programming director at Washington Top 40 station WWZZ (104.1 FM), Dale O'Brien, received an unmixed copy of the song. When he listened to it a few days later, he told Billboard magazine, he recognized it as an instant hit.

"I said, 'Man, that is a record,' " O'Brien said. "It was kitschy, with that whole New Kids, Macaulay Culkin and Abercrombie and Fitch thing. I figured people would latch right on."

One of those who did was a member of a production team for a New York station, WHTZ, who one day had been driving through Washington and was listening to WWZZ when "Summer Girls" came on. He raved about the song to his bosses, who began to play it day and night after hundreds of requests.

"It's the kind of song where the hook is so in-your-face that even if you don't like it, you find yourself singing it, kind of like a nursery rhyme," Paul Bryant of WHTZ told Billboard. "Plus, it really hits all of these pop-culture hot buttons."

The song launched LFO into stardom, and "Summer Girls" hit No. 3 on the Billboard 100 and stayed on the charts for more than a dozen weeks.

"I never thought anyone besides my close friends would ever hear it," Mr. Cronin told the Boston Globe in 2005. "I would have definitely taken out the line about Chinese food if I had known that would happen."


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