Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich: Now she's gone . . .

Ellie Greenwich died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 68.

I confess that I wasn't familiar with her by name before yesterday. But now I know that I've been enjoying her work since I was in elementary school, obsessively listening to "best of the '60s" tapes.

She's best known for her songwriting — or, rather, co-songwriting. She co-wrote most of her songs with Phil Spector and/or her husband (later ex-husband, though they continued writing together after the divorce), Jeff Barry. Here are some of her great songs:

- Be My Baby
- Leader of the Pack
- Then He Kissed Me
- Da Doo Ron Ron
- Chapel of Love
- Doo Wah Diddy
- I Can Hear Music

When Rolling Stone listed the "500 greatest songs of all time," it put "Be My Baby" at #22, just ahead of towering achievements like "Stairway to Heaven," "God Only Knows," and "A Day in the Life." (Incidentally, I believe it's the #1 song on the list written by a woman.) It was reportedly Brian Wilson's favorite song.

According to the obituary at the first link, Greenwich wore many other hats: singer, producer, arranger, actress, etc.

Some more links: Wikipedia is, of course, the place to go for her life story. Metafilter's commenters are reminiscing and taking moments of silence (represented by periods). Pitchfork, the indie-focused music site with a reputation for ├╝ber-hipness, praises her "ridiculously great songs."

Here are two songs I love for her characteristic simplicity, sweetness, emotional directness.

The Ronettes - Be My Baby




The Beach Boys - I Can Hear Music (originally performed by the Ronettes)




ADDED: My mom also has a post on Ellie Greenwich, where a commenter called FortWorthGuy gives this anecdote:

Several years ago I wanted a copy of the cast recording of "Leader of the Pack" [a musical about Greenwich's life] on CD. I could not find it anywhere. The internet was a blank with regards to purchasing this item. I found Ellie's e-mail address on her web page, sent her an e-mail asking how/where I could purchase this. She wrote back asking for my home address and in a few days she sent me one....no charge. What a sweetie! And the music does bring back great memories!

(Photo of Ellie Greenwich from her website.)

3 comments:

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

How many teenage romances those songs accompanied!

Meade said...

And even middle age!

(Nice blog post, John!)

paul a'barge said...

.......