It was a sad day in the pop world on Wednesday, as the news spread around the Rich Cronin, singer for LFO and songwriter of once-ubiquitous 1999 pop smash “Summer Girls,” passed away after a long battle with leukemia. He was only 35 years old, and left behind a legacy of woefully underrated pop tunes that were unfortunately saddled with the group’s gimmicky name (the letters stood for “Lyte Funky Ones”) and the too-clever lyrics to their biggest hit (“New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits/ Chinese food makes me sick”).
Born and raised outside of Boston, Cronin formed LFO in the late ’90s with friends Brad Fischetti and Devin Lima. Their self-titled debut made an immediate impact, turning “Summer Girls” into a massive hit (it peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100) and moving over two million copies. They also scored a big hit with “Girl on TV,” which was about Jennifer Love Hewitt (who also starred in the video).
After those two hits, LFO faded into the background, but Cronin never did lose the writing touch. The single “I Don’t Wanna Kiss You Goodnight” should have been a much bigger smash, and the group’s 2001 sophomore effort Life Is Good was full of similarly catchy, bubbly and, yes, funky pop smashes, including “Every Other Time” (which was a minor hit) and “6 Minutes” (which should have been a smash but is probably better known from its Jonas Brothers cover, which appeared on the band’s 2006 album It’s About Time).
Once LFO separated in 2003, Cronin never managed to establish himself as the killer songwriter that he is (he could have easily become a pop doctor in the Linda Perry or Butch Walker mold), though he did have some success with the LFO reunion in 2009. Though “Summer Girls” might be the most polarizing single of the boy band era (it’s neck-and-neck with Everything’s “Hooch”), Cronin was one of the sharper songwriters to emerge from that scene. “I Don’t Wanna Kiss You Goodnight” remains a great song and deserved to be a hit. Consider this the start of its belated campaign.