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Songwriting Legend Ellie Greenwich Gone at 68

Posted: 08/26/09 04:59 PM ET

Rock 'n' roll songwriter Ellie Greenwich has passed away from a heart attack Wednesday morning in St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York where she had been treated for pneumonia. Greenwich became one of the U.S.'s top songwriters in the sixties, and she is most famous for having co-penned classics such as "Be My Baby," "Chapel Of Love," "River Deep, Mountain High," and "Maybe I Know." With her Brill Building contemporaries -- Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Carole King, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka, and former husband Jeff Barry--she supplied a soundtrack for half a decade, heavily contributing to and influencing what would become known as the "Girl Group" sound.

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Ellie Greenwich first dabbled with music on the accordion, switching to piano on which she started writing in her teens. She scored a record contract with RCA Records at seventeen, and under the pseudonym "Ellie Gaye" her first single was the original "Silly Isn't It?" released in 1958. It never became a national hit, but it was the beginning of a career that continued well into the nineties. Her future husband and writing partner Jeff Barry entered the picture while she was attending Hofstra University, their having shared a Thanksgiving dinner at which the pair played their first music together. Romance eventually bloomed, but the pair pursued separate careers with Greenwich getting her songwriting break in 1962.

Visiting New York's famed Brill Building at 1619 Broadway -- an address containing successful music publishing companies that embraced workshop environments among its staffs -- Greenwich lucked into a meeting with writer John Gluck, Jr. (co-writer of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party") who kept the ambitious songstress waiting in an adjoining office with a piano. Passing her time, Greenwich began playing the instrument, and Jerry Leiber (of Leiber and Stoller fame) came into the area expecting Carole King to be at the keyboard. She explained she was a songwriter, and after being introduced to Mike Stoller and auditioning some tunes for the industry moguls, she was offered the use of their musical facility in exchange for a right of first refusal on her songs. She agreed, and after some time, Ellie Greenwich was signed as a staff member to Leiber and Stoller's publishing company Trio Music.

With her father driving her between Manhattan and Levittown, she began writing and co-writing, especially with Tony Powers, their biggest hits being "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others' Hearts?" (songwriting credit also extended to producer Phil Spector). But she also was a great singer, and behind the scenes, she was given the nickname "New York's Demo Queen" for singing on everything she could get her voice on. In fact, she became the go-to background singer, along with her pal Mikey Harris, in the seventies and eighties -- most notably appearing on Blondie and Cyndi Lauper records (including "Girls Just Want To Have Fun") and with Tasha Thomas and producer/songwriter Tommy West as the soulful "crowd" that backed Jim Croce's hits such as "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

"It's a terrible loss for the industry," West commented today after receiving the news. On her fateful years with Jeff Barry, West's liner notes for Ellie Greenwich's anthology I Can Hear Music: The Ellie Greenwich Collection continues the story in her own words: "At this time, I was dating Jeff Barry and we were planning to marry, so I had a feeling that we would work together. We wrote 'Hanky Panky' but didn't seriously collaborate until I began to work with Phil Spector. We wrote 'What A Guy' with The Sensations in mind while riding the 'E' train from Queens and Lefrak City, and went straight to Associated Studio B to demo it. Jeff played drums, I played piano, we did some vocals, and brought the tune back to Leiber and Stoller who loved it, as did Spector. They liked our demo so much that a deal was made with Jubilee Records, and we became the group The Raindrops."

Though The Raindrops only recorded a few tracks such as "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget," Greenwich and Barry also covered "Doo Doo Ron Ron" and "Hanky Panky" as well as other future staples. And their relationship with Phil Spector grew, resulting in the producer employing his wall of sound techniques to the Barry-Greenwich original "Be My Baby" with his Ronettes. A string of hits with various artists both in and out of the Spector camp followed, including the aforementioned titles, plus instant classics like "Leader Of The Pack," "Then He Kissed Me," "Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home," "If You Loved Me Once," "I Can Hear Music," "Do-Wah-Diddy," and "Sunshine After The Rain."

After the British Invasion occurred and "Chapel Of Love" hit #1, Leiber and Stoller teamed with George Goldner to create Red Bird Records, a company where Greenwich would bloom as a record producer. "Ellie was a real pioneer both as a songwriter and producer," Tommy West explained. "She was one of the first women to break through the exclusive men's production club. Sometimes she had to get down to a man's level to get them to listen, and there were times when she would cry after a session because they wouldn't listen to her as readily as they would a man. But her legacy is one that will never be duplicated." In West's liner notes, Greenwich explained her production experience further: "Men had problems taking direction from a woman ... it was difficult not knowing if they took me seriously, listening to the jokes, etc. But sometimes it would work to my advantage. I could use my femininity. My mother ... gave me a bit of advice. 'When you walk into a session your whole attitude will change if you picture all the musicians sitting around nude.' So I became one of the guys. I'd tell a joke. I bought this lipstick in the shape of a penis and I would 'freshen-up.' They would crack up laughing. It would break the ice."

Some of her most famous productions included records by Neil Diamond. With her husband/music partner Jeff Barry, Greenwich "...went to Bang Records where Bert Berns gave us a budget to cut two sides, 'Solitary Man' and 'Cherry Cherry.' I played piano and sang backup, Neil played acoustic piano." Another interesting contribution she made to pop music is her background vocal arrangement using the Sweet Inspirations on Aretha Franklin's "Chain Of Fools." She was hired after Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler asked her to fix the track.

Ellie Greenwich was a hit machine behind the scenes, but Ellie Greenwich the recording artist never really took off. She released many singles and two albums -- Composes, Produces & Sings for United Artists in 1968, and Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung... for MGM/Verve in 1973. Despite having a #1 hit in Japan with "Niki Hoeky" and charting in the U.S. with "I Want You To Be My Baby," between songwriting and singing, her schedule never allowed her to fully commit. "She was a phenomenal singer," West remembered. "She never realized her full potential as an artist because she never concentrated on it." But it also was partly due to her attitude following her contract being sold by Leiber and Stoller to UA for her first album. Greenwich revealed in West's liner notes that she "felt like a piece of meat" even though she continued with her session work to complete the project. However, after fellow former Brill Building writer Carole King had a mega-hit with Tapestry, an album that included her versions of hits written for others, Greenwich recalled, "...my phone began to ring. Companies thought I should take a similar approach with some of my old songs and some new ones." That resulted in Let It be Written, Let It Be Done..., and in West's notes, the artist revealed one more puzzle piece as to why her own recording career might have suffered: "I think this album would have done pretty well but I was afraid to perform."

In the eighties, The Leader Of The Pack musical was created based on Greenwich's hit songs. "I agreed to do the show for three nights in January 1984 and again for one month" she stated in West's notes. But it was a huge success, and after debuting at The Bottom Line, it ran on Broadway for another five months. "It was very exciting. I had become recognizable to people after years behind the scene." In 1991, she and Jeff Barry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame; and as to how she saw the future in 1999, Greenwich told West, "I didn't know what I was doing when I came into this business and I still don't. But if it feels good and right, you just do it. Music has been my best friend. It doesn't lie. I don't have much of an ego except when you try to take what I've done away from me. I'm very proud of what I've done."

The following information was taken from Ellie Greenwich's website, elliegreenwich.com:

SONGS WRITTEN BY ELLIE GREENWICH

A FINE FINE BOY

Darlene Love

AFTER THE TWILIGHT

Irene Cara

A GIRL LIKE THAT

Nona Hendryx

ALL GROWN UP

The Crystals, The Exciters

AND THEN HE KISSED ME

Willeke Alberti, Richard Anthony, Joanna Bell and The Blenders, Rodney Bingenheimer, Broad Herman With Wild Romabce, Julie Budd, Candy, Dynette Set, Bob Dokas and Custom Blend, Dave Edmunds, Erasure, Gary Glitter, Ellie Greenwich, Jezebel and Chris, Kiss, Lucy Loves Schroeder, Dinah Manoff, Martha and the Vandellas, Juice Newton, Sandy Posey, Joey Pugliattia, Terry Reid,Rock Box, Scratch Band, Sonny And Cher, Rachel Sweet, Sha Na Na, Trixy and The Testones, Moe Tucker, Ted Zabawa, The Beach Boys, The Crystals, The Dacrons, The Derailers, The Dixie-Cups, The Drifters, The Flying Lizards, The Hilights, The Lurkers, The Hollywood Brats, The Joey's, The Marvels, The Monday Blues, The Starlings,

BABY BE MINE

The Jellybeans

BABY I LOVE YOU

Dave Edmunds, Roberta Flack, Annie Golden, Ellie Greenwich, Dennis Hathaway, Bobby Heath, Andy Kim, Linda Ronstadt, The Ramones, The Ronnettes

BE MY BABY The RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) and The NEA (National Endowment For The Arts).....have included this song on their list of the Greatest Songs Of The 20th Century

Frank Alaimo, Carmine Appice, Graham Bonnet, Shaun Cassidy, Essex, Melissa Ethridge, Gary Glitter, Sui Generis, Annie Golden, Ellie Greenwich, Cissy Houston, Humble Pie, Ivy, Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers, Jon and The Nightriders, Andy Kim, French Kicks, John Lennon, Steve Marriott, Bette Midler, Pink Nasty, Los Gatos Negros, Money Joe, Sandy Posey, Sande Shaw, Ringo Starr, Rachel Sweet, Reparata and The Delrons, Linda Ronstadt, Ruby Starr, Smokie, Fonzi Thornton, Tiny Tim, Twiggy, Whifield III, Ian Whitcomb, Brian Wilson, The Allstars, The Aztecs, The Bay City Rollers, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, The Chiffons, The Dee Archer Band, The Drones, The Fabulous Singlettes, The Kingsmen, The Midetmen, The Pete Best Band, The Ronnettes, The Searchers, the Yums Yums.

BOYS IN THE ATTIC

Ellen Foley

CHAPEL OF LOVE

Ellie Greenwich, Hit Crew, Holly and The Italians, Elton John, Laverne and Shirley, Darlene Love, Bette Midler, Moonlighter, Judith Muro, Jonathan Richman, Sam The Sham and The Pharohs, Ellen Reid, The Ad Libs, The Beach Boys, The Crystals, The Dixie-Cups, The Electric Flag, The Pfiester Sisters, The Fabulous Singlettes, The Persuassions, The Ronnettes

CHRISTMAS BABY (PLEASE COME HOME)

Mariah Carey, Cher, Death Cab For Cutie, Dion, Flash Caddilac, Ted Harold, Hanson, Husky Team, Jon Bon Jovi, Last Train Home, Darlene Love, Rosie O'Donnell and Cher, New Bomb Turks, Joey Ramone, Reina, Sha Na Na, Brenda K. Starr, Sten and Stanley, U2, The desires, The Searchers

DA DOO RON RON

Another Joe, Frank Alaimo, Shaun Cassidy, Dave Edmunds, Johnny Hallyday, George Harrison, Laverne and Shirley, Bette Midler, Ellie Greenwich, Snarly Grumble,, Karen Kamon, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Mike Love and Dean Torrance, Darlene Love, Ian Matthews, Jack Nitzsche, Alyssa Milano, Sha Na Na, Stormy Weather, Brian Wilson, The Aztecs, The Belmonts, The Carpenters, the Chiffons, The Crystals, The Donnas, The Fabulous Singlettes, The Raindrops, The Rattles, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, The Starlite Orchestra, The Who

DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY

A La Carte, Baby Talk, Bel-Air-Bandits, Count Basie, Patrick Cassidy, Jan and Dean, Neil Diamond, DJ Otzi, Andrew Gold, Lesley Gore, Ellie Greenwich, Black Lace, Los Gatos Negros, Hit crew, Herbie Mann, Manfred Mann, Mr. Al, Reparata and The Delrons, Rock Candy, Silicon Teens, Shoaddywaddy, 2 Live Crew, The Blue Melons, the Exciters, The Fabulous Singlettes, The Fools, The Fun Factory, The Manfreds, The Moffats, the Ronnettes, The Soca Boys, The Sugar Beats, The Young Rascals

DON'T EVER LEAVE ME

Connie Francis, Ted Hawkins, The Hounds, Jan & Dean

DON'T STOP MY HEART

Elaine Caswell

GEE BABY GEE

The Ad Libs, The Dixie Cups, The Butterflys, The Sisters

GEE THE MOON IS SHINNING BRIGHT

The Dixie Cups, The Ad Libs

GIRLS CAN TELL

The Crystals, The Dixie Cups

GIVE US YOUR BLESSINGS

Ray Peterson

GOODNIGHT BABY

Ellie Greenwich, Brenton Wood, The Butterflies, The Imaginations, The Jellybeans. The Searchers

GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME

Ellie Greenwich & Desmond Child

HANKY PANKY

Freddy Cannon, Patrick Cassidy, Creek, Ron Dante, Neil Diamond, Ellie Greenwich, Herman The German, Tommy James and The Shondells, Joan Jett, Link Protrudi and The Jaymen, Los Hitters, Los Rockin' Devils, Sam The Sham and The Pharohs, Tommy Roe, Tony Roman, The Cramps, The Raindrops, The Ventures

HE AIN'T NO ANGEL

The Ad-Libs, Conway Twitty

HEARTBREAKER

B Girls, The Crystals

HE'S GOT THE POWER

The Exciters

HOLD ON BABY

Sam Hawkins, Ike and Tina Turner

I CAN HEAR MUSIC

Curt Boettcher, Ellie Greenwich, Peggy Lee, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie Spector, Kathy Trocolli, Queen, The Beach Boys, The Ronettes, the Ventures

I DIDN'T MEAN TO HURT YOU

The Rockin' Berries, The Shirelles

I HAVE A BOYFRIEND

The Chiffons, Martha & TheVandellas

I KNOW IT'S ALL RIGHT

Sam Hawkins

I WANNA LOVE HIM SO BAD

The Jelly Beans, Dinah Manoff, Chilli Willie & The Red Hot Peppers

I WANT YOU

Nona Hendryx

I WISH I NEVER SAW THE SUN SHINE

Beth Orton, Ronnie Spector, the Ronettes

I WONDER

Supersnazz, The Butterflies, The Crystals, The Ronettes

I'LL NEVER NEED MORE THAN THIS

Ike & Tina Turner

I'LL TAKE YOU WHERE THE MUSIC'S PLAYING

Pat Lynch and The Airchords, The Drifters, The Melodians, The Tremeloes

I'VE GOT A DREAM

The Moodyblues, The Soul Brothers

JUMP START MY HEART

Clarence Clemons

KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL

Ellen Foley, Ellie Greenwich, Nona Hendryx

LEADER OF THE PACK The RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) and The NEA (National Endowment For The Arts).....have included this song on their list of the Greatest Songs Of The 20th Century

Frank Alaimo, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Jana Anderson, Bandit, Buddies, Melissa Etheridge, Wayne Fontana, Bette Midler, Annie Golden, Hit Crew, Good Riddance, Twisted Sister, The Carpenters, The Dixie-Cups, The Fabulous singlettes, The Green Bay Packers, the Shangri-las, The Shirelles

LITTLE BELL

The Dixie Cups

LITTLE BOY

Andy White, The Crystals

LITTLE GIRL

The Crystals, The Signals, Karen Verros

LOOK OF LOVE

Pattie Darcy, Lesley Gore, Ellie Greenwich, The Copycats

LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO MY HEART

The Shirelles, The Elgins

MAYBE I KNOW

Nancy Boyd, Lesley Gore, Ellie Greenwich, They Might Be Giants, The Cappellos, The Seashells

MIDNIGHT FEELING

Cheryl Barnes, Patty Smyth

NOT TOO YOUNG TO GET MARRIED

Darlene Love, Bobby Soxx & The Blue Jeans

ONE BOY TOO LATE

Mike Clifford, Rick Nelson, Bobby Vee

OUT IN THE STREETS

Blondie, God is my co-pilot, Versus, The Dixie-Cups, The Shangri-las

PEOPLE SAY

Flight Recorder, Scott McCaughey, The Ad Libs, The Dixie-Cups, The Minus 5

PLEASE MAKE THE LOVE GO AWAY

The Whatnaughts

RIGHT TRACK, WRONG TRAIN

Cyndi Lauper

RIVER DEEP. MOUNTAIN HIGH

Song Chosen By Australian Press as #9 in a list of the 100 greatest songs - ever

Jimmy Barnes, Jack Bruno, Cold Chisel, Deep Purple, Celine Dion, Tina Charles, Easybeats, Episode Six, Erasure, Eric Burdon, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Neil Diamond, Keith and Donna Godchaux, Ellie Greenwich, Dobir Grey, Group Therapy, Jasmine Guy, Carol Jiani, Lori Johnson, Katrina and The Waves, Richard Kendrick, Cyndi Lauper and Tom Jones, Annie Lennox, London Symphony Orchestra, Long John Baldry, Darlene Love, Kelly Marie, Les McCann, Meatloaf, Mescaline Drive, Harry Nillson, Bill Real and The Rhondells, Savage Resurrection, Ted Roddy, Bob Seger, Sue and Sonny, Gary Tesca, Ike and Tina Turner, Tina Turner, Those Peabodys, Leslie Uggams, Robert Wells, the Aint's, The BB Band, The Flamin' Groovies, The Four Tops, The Saints, The Shadows, The Starsound Orchestra, The Supremes and The Four Tops

STREET-WISE

Gail Boggs

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Eddie Money & Ronnie Spector, Paddy Goes To Holyhead

THE SUNSHINE AFTER THE RAIN

Number One in England on both the POP and DANCE Charts in 1997

Elkie Brooks, Ellie Greenwich, New Atlantic/U4EA featuring Berri, The Bel-Aires

THE SWIM

Laura Benedict, Disney's Dance Along, The Butterflys

THE TRAIN FROM KANSAS CITY

Neko Case, Superchunk, The Dixie-Cups, The Shangri-las, The Shop Assistants

THIS IT IT

Jay & The Americans

TODAY I MET THE BOY I'M GONNA MARRY

Louisa Florio, Ellie Greenwich, Darlene Love, The Crystals

WAIT 'TILL MY BOBBY GETS HOME

Bobby Soxx & The Blue Jeans, Ellie Greenwich, Darlene Love, Martha & The Vandellas

WE'RE GONNA MAKE IT (AFTER ALL)

Patty Smyth, Broadway Cast: Leader Of The Pack

WHAT GOOD IS I LOVE YOU

Ellie Greenwich, Dusty Springfield

WHEN THE BOY'S HAPPY

The Four Pennies, The Chiffons, The Raindrops

WHY DO LOVERS BREAK EACH OTHER'S HEARTS?

Bobby Soxx & The Blue Jeans, Darlene Love

WHY DON'T THEY LET US FALL IN LOVE

Sonny & Cher, Veronica

YOU SHOULD'VE SEEN THE WAY HE LOOKED AT ME

The Dixie-Cups

SONGS WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ELLIE GREENWICH

BABY, LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO MY HEART The Shirelles

CHAPEL OF LOVE The Dixie-Cups

DON'T EVER LEAVE ME Connie Francis

I WANNA LOVE HIM SO BAD The Jelly Beans

LEADER OF THE PACK The Shangri-las

LEADER OF THE PACK Broadway Cast Album

PEOPLE SAY The Dixie-Cups

THE KIND OF BOY YOU CAN'T FORGET The Raindrops

WHAT A GUY The Raindrops

WHAT GOOD IS I LOVE YOU? Dusty Springfield


SONGS PRODUCED BY ELLIE GREENWICH

CHERRY CHERRY Neil Diamond

I GOT THE FEELING Neil Diamond

KENTUCKY WOMAN Neil Diamond

LEADER OF THE PACK Broadway Cast Album

SHILO Neil Diamond

SOLITARY MAN Neil Diamond

THANK THE LORD FOR THE NIGHT TIME Neil Diamond

THE BOAT THAT I ROW Neil Diamond

VARIOUS ALBUMS Neil Diamond


SONGS RECORDED BY ELLIE GREENWICH (Artist)

ELLIE GREENWICH COMPOSES, PRODUCES, AND SINGS Ellie Greenwich

I WANT YOU TO BE MY BABY(Top Forty) Ellie Greenwich

LEADER OF THE PACK (Album-Elektra) Ellie Greenwich

Cast Album from Broadway Show (Various Artists)

LET IT BE WRITTEN, LET IT BE SUNG Ellie Greenwich (Album-MGM/Verve)

LETS GO TOGETHER (Jubilee) As The Raindrops

NIKY HOEKY (United Artists-Number One Record..Japan) Ellie Greenwich

ONE MORE TEAR (Jubilee) As The Raindrops

THAT BOY JOHN (Jubilee) As The Raindrops

THE KIND OF BOY YOU CAN'T FORGET (Jubilee) As The Raindrops

THE RAINDROPS(Album-Jubilee) As The Raindrops

WHAT A GUY (Jubilee) As The Raindrops


VOCAL BACKGROUND SINGING AND ARRANGING

Aretha Franklin (Vocal arranged 1968 R and B Record Of The Year...Grammy Award Winning, "Chain Of Fools") Cyndi Lauper (Vocal arranged and sang on Number One Record ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun") Bette Midler...Blondie (Number One "Dreamin'")...Electric Light Orchestra (Number One "Evil Woman")...Lobo...Frank Sinatra...Connie Francis...Ella Fitzgerald. Leslie Gore (Most of her top records)...The Ronettes...The Raindrops...The Shirelles...Gary U.S. Bonds...Manhattan Transfer...Neil Diamond (All His Early Hits)...Ellen Foley...Clarence Clemons...Patty Smyth...Lou Christie (Top Ten Record "Baby I'm Gonna Make You Mine")...Sarah Vaughn...Miriam Makeba...Tommy James...Erroll Garner...Bobby Darin...Dusty Springfield...The Shangri-las (All Hits)...Andy Kim (Top Ten "Baby I Love You")...Robert John (Number One Record "The Lion Sleeps Tonight")...Bernadette Peters...Jim Croce...Holly and the Italians, "When The Radio Is On" and "What Is Soul?" on Paul Shaffer's "Coast To Coast" Album. Also performed in the video for "When The Radio Is On" among others.


SONGS FOR FILMS

STREAMERS FLAMINGO KID

CACTUS FLOWER BABY BOOM

BABY BOOM MEAN STREETS

SIXTEEN CANDLES HANKY PANKY

FOR KEEPS BETSY'S WEDDING

GREMLINS GOOD FELLAS

BABY, IT'S YOU L.A. STORY

STRIPES FATHER OF THE BRIDE

FULL METAL JACKET MY GIRL

DIRTY DANCING FOUR WEDDINGS & A FUNERAL

WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT FORREST GUMP

PLAYING FOR KEEPS NINE MONTHS

COUPE DE VILLE NATURAL BORN KILLERS

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY PICK UP ARTIST

SHORT CIRCUIT 2 PARADISE CLUB

ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS

WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT BAD SANTA

SECRETARY

 
 
 

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