Jean Dinning, who wrote the high school tragedy tune “Teen Angel,” a No. 1 hit in 1959 for her brother Mark, died Feb. 22 in Garden Grove, Calif. She was 86.
The song inaugurated an early-’60s cycle of morbid 45s about teenage mortality, including Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her,” the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack,” Jan & Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and J. Frank Wilson’s “Last Kiss.”
A member of vocal group the Dinning Sisters with siblings Ginger and Dolores, Jean Dinning penned “Teen Angel” with her husband Red Surrey. Her brother recorded the tune for MGM Records.
The song was a tearful tale of a girl who dies after she is hit by a train while trying to retrieve her boyfriend’s class ring from his stalled car. Programmers were hesitant to spin the record, but it struck a chord with adolescent listeners.
“Teen Angel” topped the charts for two weeks. It was Mark Dinning’s lone major hit; he died of a heart attack at age 52 in 1986.
Jean Dinning is survived by her sisters and five children.