Rich Cronin of LFO: A tribute to a fallen pop star

Rich-CroninImage Credit: BIll Davila/Retna LtdIt’s easy to take shots at the members of boy bands—everything from the lyrics of their songs to their frosted tips seem rather hilarious. But right now, on the heels of the tragic news about the death of LFO lead singer Rich Cronin, put that all away for a minute. It seems appropriate to take a moment to appreciate what this young, gone-too-soon star contributed to pop culture. And even if you don’t believe it, he did contribute to the cultural nexus, especially when you put it in the context of someone like me, who came of age when Rich and his crew were spouting their radio hits.

For me, LFO takes me back to—as clichéd as it sounds—better, easier times. It’s that simple. “Summer Girls” hit during the summer (shocker!) I was a soon-to-be high school junior who was working as a cake decorator in a local bakery. My friends and I were ensconced in Abercrombie & Fitch already, so the line about Cronin liking girls (and maybe boys, I could hope?) who “wore Abercrombie & Fitch” was like a little shout out to everyone I knew. My girlfriends squealed with delight, gesturing to their A&F gear and Doc Marten boots, whenever the tune played. Rich and his pals were pros at dropping pop culture bombs into all their songs, as “Summer Girls” featured references to Alex P. Keaton, New Kids on the Block, and Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Could you have made a teenager in 1999 swoon more? These were the things that defined our life.

To be honest, most of my friends didn’t even refer to the song as “Summer Girls”—they just called it simply “the Abercrombie & Fitch song.” In short, “Summer Girls,” to me, symbolizes a breezier, worry-free time in my life, where nothing mattered but whose pool you were going to for the afternoon. And it should be noted that whenever “Summer Girls” comes on my iPod mix, I do not hit skip. The song is still rather effervescent and fun, a tribute to what the pop world was like in the late ’90s. See what I mean by giving the video for “Summer Girls”—I mean, “the Abercrombie & Fitch song”—a try here:

I will, however, make the case that Rich and Co.’s “Girl on TV” is the superior single, despite what the charts (it only reached No. 10 in the U.S., versus No. 3 for “Summer Girls”) or your friends may tell you. It’s actually got a little story to it, with the lyric going, “I think I fell for the girl on TV.” Sweet, right? And Scooby Snacks (another pop culture bomb!) are referenced in the lyrics, too. Plus: Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Rich at the time, plays into the music video:

Now tell me that song doesn’t put a little smile on your face? It’s all silly, sure, but it’s surely just silly fun, too. Which, we can thank Rich in large part for providing. To you, Rich—thanks for being a thread in the fabric of my (vulnerable, formative) teenage years. I will, for one, miss you.

Music Mixers, do you have similar sentiments about Rich Cronin now that he’s gone? Or LFO in general? And where do you fall on the “Summer Girls” versus “Girl on TV” debate—which is better?

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

The Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix

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LFO bandmates talk to EW about their fallen friend Rich Cronin: ‘He was a fighter’
Amy Winehouse to sing ‘It’s My Party’ for Quincy Jones
LFO lead singer Rich Cronin dies at 35
Arcade Fire’s revolutionary “We Used to Wait” video: Director speaks
Kings of Leon return with new single and video “Radioactive”
Michael Jackson’s father admits spanking him as a child

Comments (59 total) Add your comment
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  • Remy

    Nicely written and classy piece. Thank you for paying great tribute to the effect music can play in our memories. RIP Rich.

    • Zeddicus Zul Zorander

      I don’t get how a teen in 1999 would relate to Alex P. Keaton (in line with the conservative movement of the 80s) being mentioned in a song – the only fault in a pretty good article

      • Suzanne

        Because he wasn’t a teen in 1999. They were in their 20s. And Alex P. Keaton was who Michael J. Fox was to that age group.

      • A.

        Syndication. I was a teen in the late 90s/early 2000s and I grew up watching and loving Family Ties. The same way kids today are watching Saved By The Bell and Full House.

      • Tricia

        I was the same age as the author and I used to love family ties when I was little. Good article, sad story- but it’s nice to be taken back to a fun time in my life.

    • Keith

      Ditto. Classy. I can’t say I was a fan, but it’s funny how the pop music world seems to move so fast now. This wasn’t so long ago but it sounds downright quaint. Miss it.

      Sad to hear about Cronin even if I wasn’t a fan. So young.

  • Erica

    Don’t forget about “Every Other Time” which came out a few years later (I think maybe 2002) and was just as frothy and funny as “Summer Girls” and more so than similar songs from that time, like Bowling for Soup.
    Rich was a decent guy and a clever songwriter, and he didn’t try to cheaply cling to fame like so many other stars are doing these days. Rest in peace.

    • ericalina

      i love “every other time”! i had to look it up this morning when i didn’t see it mentioned in any articles to make sure it was LFO.

      RIP rich.

  • Kaite

    so sad. he was such an amazing guy.
    RIP Rich. you’ll live forever in orr hearts and memories. xo

  • CelebrityFeet4.Us

    you GOT to be kidding me! i dont dismiss his passing, but that song was utter trash and he contributed nothing to music.
    i remember back in the 80’s when i used to listen to 2 Live Crew and i think back to all the easy tail i scored. there songs mean so much to me.

    • wakeforce

      2 Live Crew? Seriously… And you think “Summer Girls” was trash?

    • Zeitgeisty

      CelebrityFeet4.Us, the author of this story never claimed that LFO were great musicians. But regardless of what you think about the song, “Summer Girls” had a pretty big impact on popular culture during the Summer of 1999. That song was everywhere. And for those who were coming up then, the song brings back memories of a simpler, more innocent time. 2 Live Crew did that for you in the 80s; LFO did it for Tanner Stransky in 1999.

      • Cato

        @Zeitgeisty: I think you got it. No one claims “Summer Girls” was a masterpiece. It was simply a goofy pop jam that reminds Tanner of a certain time in his life. That’s the beauty of pop culture, no matter how light-weight it may seem.

  • melanie

    Tanner, very nicely done! I agree with you completely. I started college that year, so yes, it definitely takes me back to simpler times.

    I still love both songs (and “Every Other Time”). I never skip them on my ipod either. ;)

    We’ll miss you Rich! But we’ll always have your voice to listen to.

  • MandiHeather

    I was pretty fond of LFO at the time-unfortunately they kind of slipped out of my mind as time went on. I was really sad to hear about Rich’s passing- he was a talented guy. My favorite song was Every Other Time. It was just a fun song to sing along and the video was pretty cute.

  • nevermore1

    I had no interest in their music BUT… Rich used to call in to the Kidd Chris show (when he was in Philadelphia) and would tell stories about the business and touring. There were days when I would sit in my driveway and wait for him finish as not only were the stories great but he was engaging and entertaining as well.

  • Steve

    I was going through my CD collection a couple of days ago, and found the singles for “Summer Girls” and “Girl on TV” – they did remind of simpler times, when you could just relax and not worry about the grind. Nicely written tribute, and RIP Rich.

    • ST

      This reminds me of times you could actually buy a single! We’ll miss you Rich! That song was one of my favorites the summer of ’99. Thank you for everything and may you rest in peace.

  • C

    All of us remember Rich the celebrity, but honestly he was such a nice guy. Such a rare find in the pop-music industry: someone who cared about his friends and his fans.

  • Mickie

    Rich will be greatly missed by his fans.

    For those who feel that his song was “trash” how come that particular song was the #1 selling single of the summer of 1999?

    LFO overcame so much to acheive the success they did. To be in the shadow of the Backstreet Boys and *NSync.
    Rich worked just as hard as those guys to get to where he did.

    I agree with the writer of this article, he forever changed pop music with the song, “Summer Girls”. To most it sounds like nonsensical terms stringed together….but what he really touched upon are things that brought him great joy in his life in the “summer time”.

    Now we listen to his song, “Summer Girls” and have fond memories of the summer of 1999 when boyband ruled the airwaves.

    Rest in Peace, Rich. We love you and will always remember you.

  • SaraJess25

    Thank you for this article, as someone who knew people whose lives were impacted by him for many many years in such a positive light, this article was wonderful and simple and fun just like Rich.

  • Melovesrich

    I loved them!;( especially the song every other time! Omgoodness he was my favorite:( RIP Rich Cronin

  • Brandi

    Along with backstreet Boys LFO brought a smile to my face everytime I hear one of there songs and they do till this day. Po musci has lost a talented man.. He’s gone way to soon like many others.. This article was amazing and very well wrtiten.

    • Melovesrich

      I love them and bsb also: ( best boy bands ever.

  • Vida Tyme

    The article was nicely written. Thank you. Life is just way too short…

  • Kirsten

    Thank you so much for this! I was a big fan of LFO way back when. I love both songs, but “Girl On TV” is my favorite out of the two.

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