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- Posted on Aug 26th 2009 1:15PM by Spinner
Greenwich's songs, mostly written with her then-husband, Jeff Barry, include such '60s girl-pop standards as 'Be My Baby' and 'Baby I Love You,' by the Ronettes, 'Da Doo Ron Ron' and 'Then He Kissed Me,' by the Crystals, and 'Leader of the Pack,' by the Shangri-Las. Her songbook also includes penning 'Chapel of Love' for the Dixie Cups and 'River Deep, Mountain High' for Ike & Tina Turner.
Greenwich was part of New York's Brill Building songwriting factory alongside the likes of Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Burt Bacharach and Neil Diamond. "Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career," Diamond told Spinner. "She discovered me as a down-and-out songwriter, and with her then-husband, Jeff Barry, co-produced all my early hits on Bang Records. She has remained a great friend and mentor over the years and will be missed greatly."
Greenwich's songs also have been made into hits by performers including Tommy James and the Shondells ('Hanky Panky'), Lesley Gore ('Maybe I Know,' 'The Look of Love') and Manfred Mann ('Do Wah Diddy Diddy'). She also had a Top 20 hit of her own with 'The Kind of Boy You Can't Forget' under the group name the Raindrops.
Eleanor Louise Greenwich's infatuation with music began with the least sexy of instruments: the accordion. She later learmed piano and began writing her own songs, forming a group called the Jivettes as a young teenager.
With her blond hair, huge doe eyes and easy smile, Greenwich looked like a cross between her contemporaries Dusty Springfield and Carole King. Her fresh-faced good looks, ear for melody and earnest voice got her noticed by RCA Records where she issued a single under the name of Ellie Gaye when she was 17. No one noticed.
In 1959, Greenwich met Jeff Barry, the man who was to become her romantic and creative partner. Soon after, a chance meeting with Jerry Leiber (of songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller) launched her career as a professional songwriter, and once Greenwich and Barry were married they decided to work solely with each other.
But after penning a string of iconic girl group hits, the couple divorced in 1966 and their creative partnership eventually dissolved. Greenwich continued in the music business, discovering Neil Diamond, producing Dusty Springfield and recording a solo album as well as working as a session singer for the likes of Frank Sinatra.
A difficult period followed her success, which included a nervous breakdown, and Greenwich left the business for a couple of years. In 1973, she released the singer-songwriter album 'Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung' and later in the decade collaborated with Blondie. In the early 1980s, she wrote for Cyndi Lauper and sang backup on Lauper's solo debut, 'She's So Unusual.'
"Cyndi Lauper's stuff has a '60s edge," Greenwich said in an interview with Charlotte Greig for her 1989 book 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.' "Although she doesn't wanna see it that way, because she doesn't wanna be dated, so to speak. 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' could have been 1960s, if you took those synthesizers out."
In that same interview, Greig writes that Greenwich came across as funny, friendly and effervescent.
"She opened the door, a huge smile on her face. Her hair was platinum blonde and she was fully made up, with pale pink lipstick and plenty of black mascara, just as in the '60s. She looked dazzling, despite being 20 years older than the girl I'd seen in the photographs, and having a heavy cold that day, which she had decided to ignore. She welcomed me in, and for several hours we sat and talked while she drank coffee and chain-smoked. I was enchanted by her; Ellie had a way of sounding conspiratorial when she spoke to you, as though you were a girlfriend she hadn't seen in ages."
The 1984 Broadway musical 'Leader of the Pack' was based on Greenwich's life and music. She and Barry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991.