Losing Ellie Greenwich this week was a personal loss. Not like her family who are deeply grieving or her friends who knew her and worked with her. To me she was a new friend who had only known me for a few weeks….and for an old music historian from the 70s to be friends with an icon of pop music in the 60s was well….special.
It is the
loss of what a developing friendship can bring that is sad. And she loved The
Four Seasons and it would have been good to capture some of her stories behind
the music: and to just get to know her.
It might seem unusual for fans of the Four Seasons to see a link with Ellie Greenwich and the group but it is said she contributed to the group’s tracks and we know she was a close friend of Bob Crewe. Certainly Bob Crewe and former Four Season Jerry Corbetta helped produce her Broadway musical ‘Leader Of The Pack’ in the 1980s. But Ellie was a 60s music icon as much as the Four Seasons.
Times says of her…“Ellie also broke ground as one of the first
female record producers, working with husband Jeff Barry in crafting Diamond’s
early recordings, including “Cherry Cherry,” ”Solitary Man” and “Kentucky Woman.”. Diamond
had struggled as a songwriter until he came under the wing of Greenwich and
Barry, who’d already logged numerous shimmering pop hits for groups such as the
Ronettes, the Crystals, the Dixie Cups and Ronnie Spector.”
Our current research on Jean Thomas’s session logs in 1966 are revealing the sessions with Neil that would shape his career . Neil said in a statement.. “Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career, she discovered me as a down-and-out songwriter.”
She also did the back-up work with Jean Thomas for Connie Francis….Andy Kim and for Bob Crewe on the Leslie Gore productions as well as many others as Jean’s session logs show. She also produced and sang on some of the Ronettes later sessions. For an example of her production and backing work listen to the Tony Pass tracks that Ellie did with husband Jeff Barry at Jean Thomas’s blog post ‘Out Of The Closet – Part1
was her earlier work in 1963 that was the most important…the L.A. Times again..“Their collaborations with Wall of Sound
creator Spector are regarded among the greatest
singles ever created. The music publishing rights organization Broadcast Music Inc.
lists more than 200 songs she wrote or co-wrote, including "Then He Kissed
Me" (the Crystals), "I Can Hear Music" (The Ronettes, Beach
Boys), "Hanky Panky" (a hit for Tommy James & the Shondells),
"Maybe I Know" (Lesley Gore) and the song Spector considered his
greatest recording, "River Deep, Mountain High" (Ike and Tina Turner).
Greenwich has said that the title phrase of "Da Doo Ron Ron" was never intended to be part of the song; it was improvised as a nonsensical space filler until she and Barry could come up with a real line to follow the tune's opening lyric: "I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still."
"We got all the rest of the words and music together, but we couldn't find anything for this bit," she said in 2005. "Believe me, it doesn't mean a thing." On the other hand, when she and Barry wrote "There she goes just a walkin' down the street" to start another song, she responded with what she imagined a young girl skipping down a street would sing: "Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do." "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" became a No. 1 hit in 1965 for the British group Manfred Mann”
Greenwich suffered a nervous breakdown
after she and Barry divorced in 1965,(although she still worked tirelessly) and
the hits stopped flowing. The public's attention was shifting to the Beatles
and other British invasion bands as well as a rising crop of self-contained
singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, putting many Bril Building
When my marriage fell apart and my style dropped out of fashion, it seemed there wasn't anything left," she told an Australian newspaper in 2005. “It's easy to say I had plenty left, but that's not how it seems when you're there."
Jean Thomas remembers Ellie with great fondness.” I will miss her a great deal. We all will!!!!” I feel so sad!!!! But I'm so happy Ellie, Mikie and I had that long, long lunch not too long ago. The three of us were looking forward to the next one.”
“Ellie was such a talent. Alongside Carol King she is arguably one of
the most important female writers, producers, performers in New York
And as a result of our work with Jean and the interest of others she was less reclusive recently and contacted me about our research. A few weeks ago, when I wrote her on Facebook she said ….”Thanks for the heartwarming compliments. Jean and I have been out of touch for so long and we are just updating our friendship. I speak to Bob Crewe regularly and he is doing just fine. Hopefully someday I will get a chance to say hello to you in person.…. I find it amazing there is so much stuff out there with things I sang on, clapped on, ate on, etc. It would be great if you put up something for ‘Goodnight Goodnight’ . That was one of my favorite songs. I wrote ‘Goodnight, Goodnight’ with Bob Crewe around 1966/67. It was on the b-side of I Want You To Be My Baby. We were kind of hoping for a possible two sided success but no such luck. It's still one of my favorite songs.”
Unfortunately I didn’t manage it in time or to
ask her about how she helped out on Four Seasons records. But now here it is …..thanks
to Casey and our other researchers for their help with what has become our tribute….
think there is a female producer/writer from the 60s who I admire more. Her
work with Jean and Mikie remain for me the forgotten legacy of her 60s career
and as we complete Jean’s bios we will reveal more about this 60s ‘harmony
For more on how Ellie, Jean and Mikie (Harris) became one of the most distinct back-up sounds of the mid 60s check out Pages 5 to 7 of Jean’s bio notes Part 2
Perhaps ‘Goodnight, Goodnight’ is a fitting epitaph but because she was such a good writer I would still love to hear the unreleased Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons track she wrote with Bob Crewe and Steve Tudanger (ex ‘Four-Evers’) in 1973 ‘Be My Lover, Be My Friend’ which is lying unheard in the Motown Vaults. It never surfaced in her lifetime and it may never in ours! But most of all I’ll miss my new Facebook friend and the fun we might have had with stories of music making to share with her fans!!
Thanks to George Schowerer (photos), Martin Roberts(pic sleeves) and special thanks to Jean Thomas and Bob Crewe.
Check Out our previous post re Bob Crewe's Girl's