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Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009)

If you ever watched Shindig, Hullaballoo, or American Bandstand, you've heard dozens of songs written by Greenwich Ellie Greenwich, who died Wednesday of a heart attack. For that matter, you've heard them on plenty of other TV shows -- not just period pieces like The Wonder Years and American Dreams, but everything from Miami Vice to Ally McBeal to Guiding Light, because they're an integral part of the soundtrack of American life the past 50 years. The camp motorcycle operetta Leader of the Pack, the wall-of-sound teen romances songs Then He Kissed Me and Be My Baby, the love-so-grand-it's-got-me-speaking-in-tongues gibberish of Do Wah Diddy Diddy and Da Doo Ron Ron -- they all came from the pens of Greenwich and her then-husband Jeff Barry. They even wrote the song that became what many critics believe is the greatest rock'n'roll record of all, Tina Turner's thundering River Deep, Mountain High.

Greenwich and Barry were among the so-called Brill Building songwriters who merged lush pop strings with lascivious R&B cadences during the early 1960s. Their songs were delicious confections of teenage romance. Sometimes they ended in giddy happiness (the Dixie Cups' Chapel of Love), sometimes in wistful longing (Lesley Gore's Maybe I Know). Sometimes they were laced with rock'n'roll's first faint echoes of social conscience: The Shangri-La's Leader of the Pack, for all its loopy soap-opera trappings, is a song about young love thwarted by class warfare.

Leader of the Pack and another Greenwich-Barry composition that belatedly became a classic -- Darlene Love's Christmas Baby (Please Come Home) --certainly proved that they could write songs of shattering heartbreak. But they were always at their best singing about how wondrous life is when you'reyoung and in love and you've got a handful of 45s. Today I'm thinking about I Can Hear Music, a Greenwich-Barry tune recorded by both the Ronettes and the Beach Boys:

I can hear music

I can hear music

The sound of the city, baby, seems to disappear

I can hear music

Sweet, sweet music

Whenever you touch me baby

Whenever you're near...

So long, Ellie. We'll leave a radio on.


Comments

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Carole Ford

Her songs will live forever. She is truly a LEGEND

Lao Music

I love Ellie. I hope her songs will be with us forever..

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