RIP Ellie Greenwich

Various_DoWahDiddyDiddyI don’t actively read obituaries, as I expect the passing of anyone of import will filter to me through regular news channels. Apparently not. Ellie Greenwich passed away a week ago, and I just happened upon the news today. Brian Wilson said, “She was the greatest melody writer of all time.” Quite a compliment from anyone, but even more so from such a terrific melodicist in his own right. My affection for Greenwich isn’t tied only to specific songs, but also to the craft that she helped define as part of the Brill Building stable.

Several years ago I was listening to the Shangri-Las “The Train From Kansas City” and marveling at the lyric “I’ll be back in the time it takes to break a heart,” I started searching the web to see if I could find Greenwich’s address so I could see if there was a back story to this song, and on her home page found a link to a contact page. I expected a canned reply or a note from a publicist thanking me for writing, but a couple of days later I got a response directly from Ellie Greenwich. She couldn’t remember what inspired her and Jeff Barry to write the song, but was touched that someone would seek her out to ask about a 40-year-old lyric to a song that was never a hit.

I still find it difficult to wrap my head around one person writing or co-writing:

And Then He Kissed Me
Baby, I Love You
Be My Baby
Chapel of Love
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Da Doo Ron Ron
Do Wah Diddy Diddy
Good Night Baby
Hanky Panky
He’s Got the Power
He Ain’t No Angel
I Can Hear Music
Leader of the Pack
Not Too Young To Get Married
Out in the Streets
River Deep, Mountain High
Then He Kissed Me
(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry
Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?

Not to mention lesser-known gems like Connie Francis’ “Don’t Ever Leave Me,” The Shangri-Las “Give Us Your Blessings,” The Chiffons’ “I Have a Boyfriend” (remade to perfection by Reparata & The Delrons) and dozens of sides for the Blue Cat and Red Bird labels that never made the charts. She recorded fine singles and albums under her own name and as part of the Raindrops, and discovered Neil Diamond.

Diane Warren said, “Those songs are part of the fabric of forever.” They’re certainly part of my forever.

Ellie Greenwich was 68 when she passed away on August 26, 2009. RIP.

Listen to Ellie Greenwich sing “Hanky Panky”

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