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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Summer Girls

The summer of 1999 was a memorable one for me in some ways. 

I had turned eighteen years old a couple of months prior, and it was the first summer where I was officially considered an adult.  I had just graduated from the twelfth grade, and to be perfectly honest, I had accumulated enough credits to graduate from high school that summer.

I’m not exactly sure why I opted to take my OAC year given my feelings towards high school in general now that I have typed that out and I am now reading it over again.  I think it was probably because I wanted to be the Class of 2000. 

But, anyway, back to the summer of 1999, it was quite good.  I didn’t have any summer flings, or go anywhere exotic that year, but I did have fun swimming at the river, and working various odd jobs that summer. 

Really, the only terrible thing that happened to me during the summer of 1999 was that I had contracted a nasty case of pneumonia.

Only I could catch pneumonia the final week of August...sigh.  I spent the last week of summer vacation in bed, only feeling better on the first day of school.  How fun.

Perhaps the most memorable part about the summer of 1999 was the music playing on the radio at that time.  I know that a lot of people slag off of the music from the late 1990s, but I actually thought that 1999 was a fantastic year for music.  Yes, you had your typical boy band fluff, but there was also some decent stuff out at the time.  Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera had just come out on the music scene with “If You Had My Love” and “Genie In A Bottle” respectively, both of which were (and are) great songs.  I remember listening to “Sour Girl” by the Stone Temple Pilots on my CD player over and over again.  The same deal went for The Cranberries’ “Promises”.  I’ll admit to listening to quite a bit of Beastie Boys and Sugar Ray back in the summer of 1999.  And, yes, even Britney Spears had a song release that I can honestly say that I enjoyed with “Sometimes”.

I think that the summer of 1999 was one of those summers in which there really was something for everyone.  There were rock, pop, dance, R&B, and I think even a country song or two on the mainstream Top 40 charts back then.  It was very eclectic...much like my personality was back in 1999.

So, I thought to myself, which song was the best representation of the wonderful summer of 1999?  And, I think that I came up with the answer.  Yes, the song might be from a boy band, but there’s a lot to talk about in regards to this song, as well as the fate of the band who sang it.

ARTIST:  Lyte Funky Ones
SONG:  Summer Girls
DATE RELEASED:  June 29, 1999

Would you like to know something I found neat?  Had I graduated from high school in 1999, the same date this song was released would have been the date that I would have graduated!

But, we’re not here to talk about my high school graduation.  We’re here to talk about the band Lyte Funky Ones, or LFO for short. 

The band was made up of three members.  Originally, the band featured Rich Cronin, Brad Fischetti, and Brian Gillis.  The band formed in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts in 1995.  Cronin met with Gillis, and together with Fischetti formed the three man pop/rap group, Lyte Funky Ones.  Try as they might though, they had difficulty getting their name out there.

Part of it, I suppose, could have been the timing of it all.  The band was trying to get their big break between 1995-1997, the same time period in which boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and Take That were dominating the charts.  And, it also didn’t help that their first few singles didn’t exactly do so hot on the charts.

TRIVIA:  Believe it or not, the band’s first single release sampled Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You”!  It managed to chart at #54 on the UK Charts, but failed to see an American release.

The struggle for success was incredibly frustrating for the band, and apparently by late 1998, the frustration proved too great for Brian Gillis.  He left the group in early 1999, and was promptly replaced by Devin Lima.  It was Lima’s idea to simplify the band name as LFO, and from 1999 on, that was the name that the band went under.

Well, in most places of the world, LFO was the name they went under.  In the UK, they were forced to use the Lyte Funky Ones name, as the name LFO had been used by a British dance act since 1988.

The band signed a recording contract with Arista Records, and went to work on a new album.  Assisting in the production of the album were Dow Brain and Brad Young of Underground Productions, as well as Danny Wood, who had achieved fame as a member of the “New Kids On The Block” during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The band cut several demos, one of which was the song “Summer Girls”.  It soon became the lead off single from the band’s album, “LFO”, and by August 1999, it had peaked at #3 on the Billboard Charts.

Of course, part of the song’s success was due to the fact that a New York City based radio station, Z100, played the song constantly and frequently before the song had even hit the Billboard Charts, creating a lot of buzz.

The song itself is a myriad of pop culture references, and could have easily been used in commercials for the retailer “Abercrombie & Fitch”, with the number of times the company was mentioned during the whole song.  Just to give you an idea of how many pop culture references were added in the song (in case you didn’t catch them all when you listened to the song earlier), here’s a list of all the references that were mentioned.

Cherry Coke, Home Alone, Mr. Limpet, New Edition, Alex P. Keaton, Kevin Bacon, Footloose, Fun Dip, The Color Purple, Larry Bird, William Shakespeare, New Kids on the Block, and Chinese food, just to mention a few.

The song helped propel the band to stardom, and the album that the song initially appeared on sold over two million copies.  A second single from the album, “Girl on TV” also did moderately well on the charts, and by 2000, LFO became a hot ticket.  They opened for Britney Spears, they won a Kids Choice Award, and even had dolls in their appearances made of them in 2001!

But sadly, the band’s success was short-lived, and LFO split up in 2003.  They tried to reunite again in the summer of 2009, a decade after their biggest hit was released, but that reunion was also brief, the band breaking up again four months later.

So, what happened to LFO?  Well, Devon Lima ended up forming a new band, The Cadbury Diesel, and released an album in 2008.  Brian Gillis also embarked on a solo career, which ultimately ended up getting him a job in Florida doing radio promotions for BMG.

Rich Cronin ended up doing a reality show entitled “Mission: Man Band” where he teamed up with Chris Kirkpatrick (NSync), Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees) and Bryan Abrams (Color Me Badd) to form a new band, and following that show, Cronin released a solo album entitled “Billion Dollar Sound”.

Tragically, Rich Cronin also battled leukemia during the latter part of the 2000’s.  After being diagnosed with the disease in 2005, Cronin had gone into remission in 2006, and subsequently founded the Rich Cronin Hope Foundation for Leukemia.  Unfortunately, the cancer came back with a vengeance, and on September 8, 2010, Rich Cronin died of a stroke due to complications from leukemia, just a few days after his 36th birthday.

It’s unfathomable to me that someone who had his whole life ahead of him, and someone who looked so full of life in a music video that was only shot eleven years ago is now gone.  But, at least he had a good run while he was alive.  After all, he was all over the radio during the summer of 1999.

Rest in peace, Rich Cronin.

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