Born Eleanor Louise Greenwich, 23 October 1939, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Songwriter / singer / producer
Songwriter Ellie Greenwich helped to shape and popularize the girl group sound of the early 1960s that included such acts as the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las and the Crystals. In the process she became one of the most respected pop songwriters of the era.
Born in Brooklyn, Greenwich moved to Long Island when she was eleven. Her first instrument was the accordion ; later she also mastered the piano. From an early age she was obsessed with music and tried to write songs. Listening to Alan Freed on her transistor radio, she fell in love with rock n roll. In 1958 she made her first record, "Cha-Cha Charming"/"Silly Isn't It" (RCA 47-7231), credited to Ellie Gaye. Both songs were her own compositions. Ellie wanted to pursue a career in music, but at the advice of Archie Bleyer, she finished college first, majoring in English. At weekends, though, she would often travel to the Brill Building on Broadway to record demos, especially of Jeff Barry's songs. She had met Barry (born Jeffrey Adelberg, 3 April 1939, Brooklyn) in 1960 at a Thanksgiving dinner. Like Ellie, Jeff had recorded a single for RCA ("Hip Couple"/"It''s Called Rock 'n' Roll", 1959) and had co-written the tearjerker "Tell Laura I Love Her" for Ray Peterson. Barry and Greenwich sang together on the single "Red Corvette" (1961), which was credited to Ellie Gee and the Jets. They became romantically involved, but Barry first had to divorce his first wife before they could marry, on October 28, 1962. At that time, the newlyweds had not yet written any songs together, since they were contracted to different publishing companies. But these obstacles were overcome early in 1963, when Barry signed with Trio Music (owned by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), the company where Greenwich was already employed. Until then Ellie had collaborated with several other writers. The most productive partnership was with Tony Powers, with whom she co-wrote "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Heart" (Bob B. Soxx and the Bluejeans) and "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" (Darlene Love). Both these Top 40 hits were produced by Phil Spector, who gave himself a co-writing credit for some minor alterations.
In 1963 Jeff and Ellie became Phil Spector's premier collaborators. The threesome wrote over twenty songs together, including "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me" (both Top 10 hits for the Crystals), "Be My Baby" (# 2) and "Baby I Love You" for the Ronettes, "Not Too Young To Get Married" (Bob B. Soxx and the Bluejeans) and "A Fine Fine Boy" and "Christmas (Please Come Home)" for Darlene Love.
Also in 1963, Ellie and Jeff started recording under the name The Raindrops, with Greenwich providing all the female vocals through overdubbing, while Barry sang background with a bass voice. Publicity stills of the Raindrops featured Ellie, Jeff and Laura Greenwich, Ellie's younger sister. Laura did not sing on the group's records, but was part of the Raindrops road group. The Raindrops scored five hits on the Jubilee label in 1963-64, the greatest success being "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget", which peaked at # 17. They also recorded (and wrote) the original versions of "Do Wah Diddy" and "Hanky Panky", later # 1 hits in versions by Manfred Mann and Tommy James respectively.
All in all, Greenwich and Barry were the top songwriters of 1963. In 1964 Greenwich and her songwriting husband teamed up with Leiber and Stoller to write for their Red Bird imprint. It was with Red Bird that the girl group sound was moulded into perfection by Greenwich, Barry, Leiber, Stoller and producer George 'Shadow' Morton. Now as adept at production as they were at composing, Jeff and Ellie spent much of 1964-65 as creative heads of Red Bird and sister labels Blue Cat, Tiger and Daisy. They notched up a string of successes, which included the number one hits "Chapel Of Love" by the Dixie Cups and "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las. Though they were divorced in 1965, Greenwich continued to write hit records with Jeff Barry, including the seminal "River Deep, Mountain High" for Tina Turner (1966) and the Beach Boys 1969 hit "I Can Hear Music" (originally recorded by the Ronettes in 1966). Ellie and Jeff also produced the 1966-67 recordings of Neil Diamond, resulting in several big hits. In 1967 Ellie recorded her first solo album (released 1968), for United Artists ; a second one would follow in 1973, for Verve. (The two albums were paired on an Australian CD on the Raven label in 1999.)
Various personal problems and changing popular music fashions led to a drop-off in productivity by the late 1960s. She revived her career, however, by focusing on radio and television commercials through her firm, Pineywood Productions.. In 1977, "Da Doo Ron Ron" topped the Billboard charts in a version by Shaun Cassidy, making it the fifth number one that Greenwich had co-written. A musical based on her life and songs, "Leader of the Pack" opened in 1984 and went to Broadway in 1985, with Darlene Love as the principal star. In 1991 Greenwich and Barry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2010 in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, this last induction was a posthumous one for Ellie Greenwich. She died in 2009 of a heart attack following a bout of pneumonia, aged 69.
Official site : http://www.elliegreenwich.com/
Obituary : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/arts/music/27greenwich.html?_r=0
Acknowledgements : Ken Emerson, Mick Patrick, Malcolm Baumgart, John Clemente.
The Raindrops :
Dik, September 2014
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