Thursday, August 27, 2009

Losing Another Legend

We lost another one of the great "behind the scenes" voices of rock and roll music yesterday when songwriter Ellie Greenwich passed away at the age of 68 from a heart attack.

Frannie was the first one in with the news ... and then it got picked up by the wire services and pretty soon we were flooded with emails, too, surrounding this sad, sad news.

Greenwich's songwriting credits read like a "Who's Who" List of the Greatest Music of the '60's ... "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells, "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann, "Leader Of The Pack" by The Shangri-Las, "Chapel of Love" by The Dixie Cups all topped the charts yet, despite this incredible legacy of music, she, too, has been ignored by Jann Wenner and his Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame!!!

Fortunately, some of our readers shared their personal experiences (and some music) with us ... we'll give you the best of that today ... along with the initial report:

Click here: Ellie Greenwich, Legendary Songwriter, Dies at 68 - Spinner
Songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who co-wrote many of the classic hits of the girl group era, has died at age 68. According to her niece, Greenwich died of a heart attack at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York, where she had been hospitalized for pneumonia.Greenwich's songs, mostly written with her then-husband, Jeff Barry, include such '60s girl-pop standards as 'Be My Baby' and 'Baby I Love You,' by the Ronettes, 'Da Doo Ron Ron' and 'Then He Kissed Me,' by the Crystals, and 'Leader of the Pack,' by the Shangri-Las. Her songbook also includes penning 'Chapel of Love' for the Dixie Cups and 'River Deep, Mountain High' for Ike & Tina Turner. Greenwich was part of New York's Brill Building songwriting factory alongside the likes of Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Burt Bacharach and Neil Diamond. "Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career," Diamond told Spinner. "She discovered me as a down-and-out songwriter, and with her then-husband, Jeff Barry, co-produced all my early hits on Bang Records. She has remained a great friend and mentor over the years and will be missed greatly." The songwriting (and onetime married) couple had their songs recorded by performers including Tommy James and the Shondells ('Hanky Panky'), Lesley Gore ('Maybe I Know,' 'The Look of Love') and Manfred Mann ('Do Wah Diddy Diddy'). Greenwich also had a Top 20 hit of her own with 'The Kind of Boy You Can't Forget' under the group name the Raindrops.

Eleanor Louise Greenwich's infatuation with music began with the least sexy of instruments: the accordion. She later learmed piano and began writing her own songs, forming a group called the Jivettes as a young teenager.With her blond hair, huge doe eyes and easy smile, Greenwich looked like a cross between her contemporaries Dusty Springfield and Carole King. Her fresh-faced good looks, ear for melody and earnest voice got her noticed by RCA Records where she issued a single under the name of Ellie Gaye when she was 17. No one noticed.

In 1959, Greenwich met Jeff Barry, the man who was to become her romantic and creative partner. Soon after, a chance meeting with Jerry Leiber (of songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller) launched her career as a professional songwriter, and once Greenwich and Barry were married they decided to work solely with each other.But after penning a string of iconic girl group hits, the couple divorced in 1966 and their creative partnership eventually dissolved. Greenwich continued in the music business, discovering Neil Diamond, producing Dusty Springfield and recording a solo album as well as working as a session singer for the likes of Frank Sinatra. A difficult period followed her success, which included a nervous breakdown, and Greenwich left the business for a couple of years. In 1973, she released the singer-songwriter album 'Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung' and later in the decade collaborated with Blondie. In the early 1980s, she wrote for Cyndi Lauper and sang backup on Lauper's solo debut, 'She's So Unusual.'

"Cyndi Lauper's stuff has a '60s edge," Greenwich said in an interview with Charlotte Greig for her 1989 book 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.' "Although she doesn't wanna see it that way, because she doesn't wanna be dated, so to speak. 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' could have been 1960s, if you took those synthesizers out."In that same interview, Greig writes that Greenwich came across as funny, friendly and effervescent." She opened the door, a huge smile on her face. Her hair was platinum blonde and she was fully made up, with pale pink lipstick and plenty of black mascara, just as in the '60s. She looked dazzling, despite being 20 years older than the girl I'd seen in the photographs, and having a heavy cold that day, which she had decided to ignore. She welcomed me in, and for several hours we sat and talked while she drank coffee and chain-smoked. I was enchanted by her; Ellie had a way of sounding conspiratorial when she spoke to you, as though you were a girlfriend she hadn't seen in ages."The 1984 Broadway musical 'Leader of the Pack' was based on Greenwich's life and music. She and Barry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991.

Legendary songwriter Ellie Greenwich -- who with her then-husband Jeff Barry gave us such hits as "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Chapel Of Love," "Leader Of The Pack," "Maybe I Know", "Be My Baby" and "Hanky Panky" -- died Wednesday (August 26) from a heart attack at a New York hospital where she had been admitted with pneumonia. She was 69. Born in Brooklyn, she grew up in Long Island and by 17 had a recording contract using the name Ellie Gaye. Though she met Jeff at a family Thanksgiving dinner while still in college, the two didn't immediately write together. It was Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who gave Ellie her break after meeting her by chance as she waited for an appointment with another Bril Building composer. While composing songs like "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" she cut demonstration recordings for other writers and soon became known as the "Demo Queen." As romance with Jeff blossomed into marriage, the two began not only writing -- but singing -- together. As The Raindrops, Jeff and Ellie charted five times, including "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget" (#17 - 1963), "What A Guy" (#41 - 1963) and the original "Hanky Panky" (the B-side of "That Boy John" in 1964). Ellie also recorded as the Butterflys ("Good Night Baby" reached #51 in 1964) and under her own name ("I Want You To Be My Baby", #83 - 1967). Jeff and Ellie also produced many of their compositions, as well as the early Neil Diamond hits "Solitary Man" and "Cherry Cherry." The couple's marriage and creative partnership broke up in 1965. In 1985, a Broadway musical based on Ellie's tunes entitled "The Leader Of The Pack premiered, earning a Tony nomination for Best Musical. Ellie was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1991.
-- Ron Smith /

I just heard the sad news of Ellie Greenwich's passing from Artie Wayne. I'm sharing with you an early demo recording Ellie did of a song called Love Is Better Than Ever, which was recorded and released by the LeVons on the Columbia record label. Although the quality of this on my actual acetate 78 is much better, I have deliberately downgraded the audio quality to prevent bootlegging of the song (yet I am sharing it everywhere), as other songs I have shared in the past have been bootlegged in their high quality. This song was written by my friend Mark Barkan and the late Ben Raleigh, who was a songwriting partner of Artie Wayne. RIP Ellie.
Tom Diehl

Check out the the incredible career of Ellie Greenwich here:
Billy Hinsche

My husband asked me if I heard what they had just said on the news and I told him no. He told me that Ellie Greenwich died and that she was 68. I heard that she died of a heart attack. I could hardly believe it. I guess they didn't have much information on that news report. I was emailing Scott Shannon on a song he played on True Oldies Channel. It's hard to believe she's gone. You tend to think that everyone is going to stay young forever and live forever. My condolences go to her family, friends and associates. May she Rest In Peace.

Ellie Greenwich and George Goldner came to see me at KQV in Pittsburgh in the 60's with tapes of "Leader of the Pack" and "Chapel of Love" saying they could not interest anyone in radio in programming after stops in New York, Cleveland and Detroit. I added them to the KQV playlist where they soon topped our Hit Parade and with Bill Gavin spreading the news to other programmers nationally they became giant hits.
Then Ellie and Ilene Berns of Bang Records came to see me in Chicago with tapes of a new singer named Neil Diamond. WLS broke his "Solitary Man" and “Cherry Cherry” started him on a forty year run of success.
It was a time when radio and the recording interest both gained from "music excitement", sadly missing from radio these days.
John Rook
Hit Parade Radio
Neil Diamond credits Ellie's belief and dedication in him as being what pushed him over the edge ... and he hasn't looked back since. One of my all-time favorite Neil Diamond recordings came from his first LP when HE cut his version of Ellie's '60's classic "Hanky Panky". ("I don't care WHO wrote it!!!") We've featured this one a couple of times before and it even earned quite a few of your votes as a Favorite, Forgotten B-Sides in our Forgotten Hits Poll a few years back. (kk)

Hi Kent ...
The great Ellie Greenwich!! What a sad day. I worked with Ellie dozens of times. Here's a song we did together called "I've Gotta Go Now".
I will miss her, a great lady. R.I.P. Rock In Perpetuity!
Lots of love,
John Madara

So sad to hear that Ellie Greenwich passed away today. DJ Stu Shea

Her hit list is INCREDIBLE. For a list of her songwriting achievements, click this link: Click here: Ellie Greenwich