August 27, 2009

"Be My Baby," "Leader of the Pack," "Then He Kissed Me," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Chapel of Love," "Doo Wah Diddy"...

Songwriter Ellie Greenwich has died.

Here's the whole musicography. There are so many great songs here, but.... let's listen to "Hanky Panky":

The lyrics are minimal yet incoherent — I saw her... I saw her... I never saw her, never, ever saw her — yet fabulous.

And here's "River Deep, Mountain High":

I'll love you just the way I loved that rag doll....


John said...

River Deep, Mountain High":

Most overrated song of the 1960s. It is neither melodic nor soulful. It just tries too hard. You get the feeling that someone sat down to write the ultimate pop/soul song. They ultimate vehicle for Tina Turner rather than having any real inspiration. As a result it just comes of fake and contrived.

traditionalguy said...

It is not Bob Dylan, yet some want to critcise this great rock and roll music which is our heritage every bit as much as the great Broadway Musicals of the late 1940s and 1950s. Anyway, I still love it.

MadisonMan said...

Those back-up dancers in Tina Turner get down a lot more than they do behind Tommy James.

Laurie said...

Never heard of Ellie Greenwich until a couple of weeks ago when one of the guys at Powerline paid tribute to Ronnie Spector's birthday. Reading that and delving deeper is when I kept seeing Ellie's name come up as the writer of all of these great old songs. And now, here's the news of her death - R.I.P., Ellie - your music will live on!

FortWorthGuy said...

Several years ago I wanted a copy of the cast recording of "Leader of the Pack" 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!

Hoosier Daddy said...

I keep hoping those mini-skirts make a comeback soon.

DADvocate said...

The musicography is quite a walk down memory lane. Can't say which one I liked best. In high school all the guys wanted a baby who did the hanky panky. DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY was always fun to sing along with.

PatCA said...

I also loved Hanky Panky. And I agree, River Deep is annoying.

Beth said...

What a collection of work, including Neil Diamond songs before he became a schmaltz peddler. My personal favorite is Chapel of Love, 'cause I love the Dixie Cups. Iko!

AJ Lynch said...

Wow that was a bunch of hits by this lady! The type of tunes that get stuck in your head.

I loved the doo wha diddy one too:

"...She looked good looked good.
She looked fine looked fine.
Then I nearly lost my mind....."

My sources tell me Meade sings that one to Althouse :)

John Althouse Cohen said...

ForthWorthGuy, that's a great little story - I added it to my post.

Meade said...

"Now we're together nearly every single day
We're so happy and that's how we're gonna stay"

Chip Ahoy said...

Presley when he first meets Priscilla:

"You know that little baby-doll of yours Priscilla?"

* lip twitches *

"You know how you looooove that little baby doll?"

* lip twitches *

"That's how I'm gonna love you, Priscilla. I'm gonna love you just like you love your little baby doll."

* lip twitches *

" C'ept differ'nt"

David said...

Hasn't anyone else noticed the young George W. Bush performing as a backup dancer in the back right on the Tommy James bit? Check it out.

Lem said...

Tommy John surgery is slang for hanky panky?

How does Althouse keep up with this stuff?

wv asperbu = french for 'the way you walk'

John Stodder said...

You get the feeling that someone sat down to write the ultimate pop/soul song.

But she'd already done that many times before writing "River Deep Mountain High." You don't need to worry about doing the ultimate anything if you've already written "Be My Baby," "Da Doo Run Run," "Then He Kissed Me," and the most soulful Christmas song, "Baby Please Come Home" by the Ronettes.

The live version of "River Deep..." on the video in Ann's post shouldn't be the reference point. The original single credited to Ike and Tina Turner (but from which Ike was completely absent) was the final and greatest "Wall of Sound" creation by Phil Spector.

AJ Lynch said...

Good answer Meade!

Cedarford said...

Left a huge body of work, not just in pop songs but Broadway, TV and movie music and commercial jingles.

Pretty good looking, too. Did acting and also sang much of her own work or in background to more featured acts.
You can see her influence on Phil Spectors work past her collaborations with him, and vice versa.

Some wonderful stuff! Thanks Ellie, for all of it.

My favorites:

Her arrangment of ELO's "The Evil Woman".
"Be My Baby"
Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys stunning, transcendent cover version of her "I Can Hear Music".

Sort of a parallel between her and Carole King - though King was far more widely known thanks to her huge commercially successful albums after writing so many successful "girls group" songs in the early 60s.

Cedarford said...

Adding, in curiosity, I looked up her biography and found her linked to the "Brill Building Gang" of songsmiths.
In the early 60s, several music publishing firms hired talent and housed them all together in the same building in NYC, allowing them to get to know one another, connubulate, shift around in inter-comapany efforts. Collectively - their impact is immense:

loosely affiliated group of songwriter-producer teams — mostly duos — that enjoyed immense success and who collectively wrote some of the biggest hits of the period. Many in this group were close friends, as well as being creative and business associates — and both individually and as a duo, they often worked with each other and with other writers in a wide variety of combinations.

Some (Carole King, Bobby Darin, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Laura Nyro, Paul Simon, Boyce and Hart) recorded and had hits with their own music.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Bobby Darin
Neil Diamond
Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry
Hugo & Luigi
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Laura Nyro
Claus Ogerman
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman
Tony Powers
Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Paul Simon as (Jerry Landis)
Phil Spector

Kirby Olson said...

Spent a half hour today researching Tommy James. His 45s were my first purchases of records. I haven't thought about him for forty years. Why did he drop out? He had a heart attack on stage in 1970, and took a very long time getting back into the scene. He's touring again with old hits and his voice is still good.

There's a good story about how his first hit Hanky Panky was recorded and forgotten, and he was no longer playing music when five years later some DJ in Pittsburg started playing the song all the time, and it took off, and he got another band, and became a phenomenon.

Thanks for digging up TJ and the Shondells. Limited, but powerful.

Popville said...

Put me squarely in the Brill Building camp. I'm so happy that my favorite blogger has similar musical tastes, though when you grew up listening to 60's radio like we did it's pretty easy :)

A number of years ago Mike Rashkow posted some demos written for Coca-Cola, sung by Ellie Greenwich and which they had written together or with others & recorded during their Pineywood Music partnership circa 1967-71. This one is especially beautiful, and as one commenter stated, if utilized by Coke might have lead to an uptick in sales from hithro unfamiliar consumers.


save_the_rustbelt said...

Record hops in the high school gym.

The advent of mini skirts and go-go boots.

Being really nervous about...girls.

Those were the days.

(Hard to imagine getting romantic to "Baby Got Back.")

NKVD said...

Baby got back is awesome. I say that as a person who listened to Hound Dog on our 78 rpm record.

I had never heard of this writer, but her work is certainly familiar. Had no idea that one person was behind those songs. What a gift.

Ann Althouse said...

@Kirby On satellite radio, 60s on 6, I've heard Tommy James doing a long interview show -- maybe an hour -- where he told his story and they played a lot of his songs. I love "I Think We're Alone Now," "Crimson and Clover," and "Crystal Blue Persuasion."

Beth said...

These songs are not my generation, but they were my childhood and I continued to embrace them.

I loved, loved Joan Jett doing Crimson and Clover.

Kirby Olson said...

Ann, I don't have satellite radio, but maybe that interview will eventually be on the net. They gave highlights on Tommy James at Wikipedia. It's an interesting history.

Gary Rosen said...

Nearly all Joooooos, C-fudd. By the way, thanks for revealing you are an aging boomer despite your repeated, nonsensical claims to be younger.