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Ellie Greenwich

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Eleanor Louise "Ellie" Greenwich (October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009)[1] was a Jewish American pop music singer, songwriter, and record producer. She wrote or co-wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", among many others. She discovered Neil Diamond and sang backing vocals on several of Diamond's hit songs.

Early years

Greenwich (pronounced "GREN-itch") was born in Brooklyn, New York to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother.[2][3] At age ten, she moved with her parents and younger sister to Levittown, New York.[4] In time she began taking lessons on the accordion. By her teens, she was composing her songs; eventually she taught herself to compose on the piano rather than the accordion. In high school, Greenwich and two friends formed a singing group, The Jivettes, which took on more members and performed at local functions.[5]

At 17, around the time she began attending Queens College, Greenwich recorded her first single for RCA Records, the self-written "Silly Isn't It" b/w "Cha-Cha Charming." The single was issued under the name "Ellie Gaye" (which she chose as a reference to Barbie Gaye, singer of the original version of "My Boy Lollipop").[6] The record was released in 1958 and indirectly led to her decision to transfer from Queens College to Hofstra University after one of her professors at the former institution belittled her for recording pop music.

Partnership with Jeff Barry

In 1959, still at college, Greenwich met the man who would become her husband and main songwriting partner. Although it is possible they had been acquainted as children, since they shared a relative, the first time Greenwich and Jeff Barry met formally as adults was at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by her maternal uncle, who was married to Barry's cousin. Greenwich had brought her accordion, and she and Barry recognized their mutual attraction — to music. Romance was not yet in the air as Barry was married to his first wife, who was at the dinner. Yet within a couple of years, the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich would be among the most successful and prolific of Brill Building composers.

Greenwich and Barry began dating after his marriage was annulled, but musically they continued separate careers. Still in college, in 1962, Greenwich got her first break in the business when she traveled to the Brill Building to meet John Gluck, Jr., one of the composers of the Lesley Gore hit "It's My Party." Needing to keep another appointment, Gluck installed Greenwich in an office and asked her to wait. The office turned out to be that of songwriter-producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Hearing piano music from the cubicle, Leiber poked his head in and, expecting Carole King, was startled to see Greenwich, who introduced herself and explained her reasons for being there. Recognizing her potential as a songwriter, Leiber and Stoller agreed to allow her to use their facilities as she wished in exchange for first refusal on songs she wrote. They eventually signed Greenwich to their publishing company, Trio Music, as a staff songwriter.

Before marrying Barry, Greenwich wrote songs with different partners, including Ben Raleigh (co-writer on Barry's first hit as a composer, "Tell Laura I Love Her," in 1960) and Mark Barkan. She was also a session singer, recording so many demos that she became known as New York's Demo Queen.[3] Her biggest hits during this period were written with Tony Powers. The Greenwich-Powers team made the charts with tunes such as "He's Got The Power" (The Exciters), "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" (Darlene Love), and "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others' Hearts?" (Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, with Love on lead vocal). These last two were co-written and produced by Phil Spector, who had been introduced to the songs, and Greenwich, by publisher Aaron Schroeder.

In October 1962, Barry and Greenwich married, and shortly afterwards decided to write songs exclusively with each other — a decision that disappointed Tony Powers as well as Barry's main writing partner, Artie Resnick. Barry was subsequently signed to Trio Music, and he and Greenwich were given their own office with their names on the door. Before the end of 1963, Barry-Greenwich had scored hits with songs such as "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You" (The Ronettes), "Then He Kissed Me" and "Da Doo Ron Ron" (The Crystals), "Not Too Young To Get Married" (Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans), and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, all co-written and produced by Phil Spector. Greenwich and Barry also recorded singles and an album under the name The Raindrops, with Greenwich providing all the female vocals through overdubbing, and Barry singing backgrounds in a bass voice.

In addition to "What A Guy" (actually a demo, with Greenwich on piano and Barry on drums, sold to Jubilee Records and released as the first Raindrops single) and the U.S. Top Twenty hit "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget," the couple wrote and recorded "Hanky Panky," which became a hit for Tommy James & the Shondells, and, the following year, "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," taken to the #1 by Manfred Mann. Toward the end of 1963, the Raindrops recorded "That Boy John," a tuneful and catchy fusion of jazz and rhythm and blues, which reached the middle of the charts — President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated and, according to Barry and Greenwich, radio stations were loath to play the song. Barry and Greenwich also penned songs for Connie Francis and Lesley Gore.

Red Bird Records was founded in 1964 by Leiber and Stoller, who brought Barry and Greenwich as songwriters and producers. The label's first release was The Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love" (written with Phil Spector and originally recorded by The Ronettes), which sailed up the U.S. charts to #1. Barry and Greenwich wrote and/or produced hits for Red Bird including several other releases by The Dixie Cups as well as The Ad-Libs ("He Ain't No Angel"), The Jelly Beans ("I Wanna Love Him So Bad"), and The Shangri-Las ("Leader of the Pack"), co-written by George "Shadow" Morton.[7][8][9] Morton, Barry and Greenwich penned "You Don't Know," which Greenwich recorded on Red Bird under her own name in 1965, at the same time Barry recorded and released another Barry–Greenwich tune, "Our Love Can Still Be Saved".[10]

However, the couple's marriage could not be saved; before the end of the year, Barry and Greenwich divorced. The couple continued to work together for much of 1966, partly due to Greenwich's discovery of a talented singer-songwriter named Neil Diamond. Barry, Greenwich and Diamond joined to form Tallyrand Music to publish Diamond's songs. Diamond was subsequently signed to Bert Berns's label, Bang Records, and had hits such as "Cherry Cherry" and "Kentucky Woman," all produced by Barry and Greenwich who also sang backgrounds on many tracks. In addition, Barry and Greenwich teamed with Phil Spector one last time to pen "I Can Hear Music", recorded by The Ronettes and by The Beach Boys, and "River Deep, Mountain High", which Spector produced for Ike and Tina Turner. A few years later, in 1970-71, The Supremes and The Four Tops had a # 14 (U.S. charts) hit with their revival of "River Deep". [11]

Later career

During 1967, Greenwich formed Pineywood Music with Mike Rashkow,[4] and over the next few years the Greenwich-Rashkow team wrote and/or produced recordings for Greenwich herself as well as for Dusty Springfield, The Definitive Rock Chorale, The Other Voices, The Fuzzy Bunnies, and The Hardy Boys. Also in 1967, Greenwich recorded her first solo album, Ellie Greenwich Composes, Produces and Sings, released in 1968, which produced two chart hits, "Niki Hoeky" (#1 in Japan) and "I Want You to Be My Baby".

Additionally, Greenwich continued to provide background vocals for a diversity of artists such as Dusty Springfield, Bobby Darin, Lou Christie and Frank Sinatra. She did studio work for her ex-husband as well, singing backgrounds for Andy Kim, who was recording for Barry's Steed Records, and The Archies. At one such recording session, Greenwich met Steve Tudanger, with whom she and Steve Feldman would later form the company Jingle Habitat to write and produce jingles for radio and television. Tudanger and Feldman also co-produced Greenwich's second LP, Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung, in 1973. Her song "Sunshine After The Rain" was a hit in the UK for singer Elkie Brooks. It was produced by Leiber and Stoller and taken from the Elkie Brooks album, Two Days Away.

After her partnership with Rashkow ended in 1971, Greenwich went on to collaborate with other writers such as Ellen Foley and Jeff Kent; the Greenwich-Kent-Foley team penned "Keep It Confidential," a hit for Nona Hendryx on the R&B charts in 1983. That same year, "Right Track Wrong Train," which Greenwich wrote with Kent and Cyndi Lauper, was the B-side of Cyndi's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" which hit #2 on the U.S. charts.


Greenwich's affiliation with Ellen Foley and Nona Hendryx indirectly led to a Broadway show that resurrected her 1960s music. When Foley and Hendryx performed at the Bottom Line cabaret in New York City, Greenwich was there to see them. Bottom Line owner Allan Pepper convinced Greenwich to meet him and discuss putting together a revue showcasing her hits. In 1984, Leader of the Pack, a show based on the life and music of Ellie Greenwich, opened at Bottom Line. Greenwich appeared as herself in Act Two, which focused on her early years in Long Island and her marriage and partnership with Barry. The show was revamped for Broadway and opened at the Ambassador Theater the following year. Cast members included Greenwich, Darlene Love, Annie Golden, Dinah Manoff as young Ellie, and Patrick Cassidy as Jeff Barry. Leader of the Pack was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical and a Grammy Award for the cast album, and the play garnered The New York Music Critics' Award for Best Broadway Musical. During the 1990s and into the new millennium, the musical has enjoyed several revivals and continues to be performed at schools and community theaters. Leader Of The Pack is still performed all over the world, and until her death Greenwich oversaw the various productions.

In 1991, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest rock songs included six Greenwich-Barry compositions, more than by any other non-performing songwriting team.[12] In 1964 alone, the duo were responsible for writing 17 singles that reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

On December 15, 2009, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Greenwich and Barry will receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award for helping to define the Brill Building sound.[13]


On August 26, 2009, Greenwich died of a heart attack at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, New York City, where she had been admitted a few days earlier for treatment of pneumonia.[5]

On Sept. 20, 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band dedicated "Da Doo Ron Ron" to Greenwich while playing the song during a concert at the United Center, Chicago. Springsteen called Greenwich an "incredible rock and soul songwriter" before playing the song.


  2. Powers, Ann (2009-08-26). "Appreciation: Ellie Greenwich: mover and shaper of American pop". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brooks, Dave Lincoln (October 2003). "AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLIE GREENWICH". Retrosellers. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Greig, Charlotte. "Ellie Greenwich interview". Spectropop. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (2009-08-26). "Ellie Greenwich, `Chapel of Love' co-writer, dies". AP. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  6. Song history
  7. Rolling Stone
  8. "R.I.P. "Be My Baby" Writer Ellie Greenwich". Pitchfork. August 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  9. Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 0823076776. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  10. Unterberger, Richie. "You Don't Know (Ellie Greenwich) review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  11. Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Revised and Enlarged, Billboard Books, New York, 1992, p448

Further reading

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ellie Greenwich. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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