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 charge. What a sweetie! And the music does bring back great memories!

(Photo of Ellie Greenwich from her website.)


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...