Teen Angel (song)

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"Teen Angel"
Teen Angel by Mark Dinning CD cover.jpg
Teen Angel by Mark Dinning - CD cover
Single by Mark Dinning
from the album Teen Angel
B-side "Bye Now Baby"
Released December 1959
Format 7" Single (45 RPM)
Genre Pop, Teenage tragedy song
Length 2:42
Label MGM
Songwriter(s) Jean Dinning, Red Surrey
Producer(s) Jim Vienneau
Mark Dinning singles chronology
"Teen Angel"
"A Star Is Born (A Love Has Died)"
"Teen Angel"
"A Star Is Born (A Love Has Died)"
Audio sample

"Teen Angel" is a teenage tragedy song written by Jean Dinning (1924–2011)[1] and her husband, Red Surrey, and performed by both Jean's brother, Mark Dinning, and Alex Murray in 1959. "Teen Angel" was released in October 1959. The song was not an instant success, with radio stations in the U.S. banning the song, considering it too sad.[2] Despite the reluctance of radio stations, the song continued to climb the charts. In the last week of 1959, the single jumped from #100 to #50 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[3] It went on to reach #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (February 1960) and number thirty-seven in the UK Singles Chart (even though it was banned from being played by the BBC).[citation needed] Billboard ranked it as the No. 5 song of 1960.[4]


The song is about a girl and her boyfriend who go out for a ride together. He pulls her to safety when their car is stalled on a railroad track in the path of an oncoming train. But then she runs back to the car, and is killed in the collision. When her body is recovered, the narrator's high school class ring is in her hand, apparently the reason that she ran back. The last verse ends with the lyrics: "I'll never kiss your lips again/They buried you today." The final line in the coda asks the Teen Angel to: "Answer me, please."

"Teen Angel" and its two predecessors at the Hot 100's top spot, "El Paso" by Marty Robbins and "Running Bear" by Johnny Preston, continued a string of pop tunes in which someone dies tragically.


American rock and roll revival act Sha Na Na performed "Teen Angel" at the 1969 Woodstock festival.

In 1974, the Canadian band, Wednesday, released its own version of "Teen Angel" much like it had released its own version of "Last Kiss". But rather than being a remake of the original, the storyline of the 1974 version reverses the role. After losing his girlfriend some time before, the 16-year-old boy loses his life in the same manner as the girl in the 1960 song (and the song in this case is narrated by a group of the boy's friends, rather than an individual).

The song was included in a medley by Steve Goodman, who performed it along with "Tell Laura I Love Her" and "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" in what he referred to as "dead girl songs."[5]

It was also included in a medley by John Sebastian on his ""Cheapo Cheapo Productions" album (1971), though not credited in the sleevenotes.

The original Mark Dinning recording is featured in the 1973 film American Graffiti (set in 1962); and as a representative hit song of the era, has been re-released on numerous compilation albums including the 1984 Rhino LP Teenage Tragedies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ born March 29, 1924, died February 22, 2011 in Garden Grove, California, SF Gate Archived March 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine..
  2. ^ New Bloomfield Historical Society
  3. ^ Billboard Hot 100, December 28, 1959
  4. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1960
  5. ^ Goodman, Steve. "Medley: Born to Be Wild/Teen Angel/Tell Laura I Love Her/Strange Things Happen" No Big Surprise, Disc 2, Track 16.