Saturday, August 29, 2009


Most real fans of classic rock know the name Ellie Greenwich.

In the pre-Mp3 era, when people had an attention span, and would actually hold a 45 rpm and look at it, and read the label, the ubiquitous credit Greenwich-Barry would often appear...
...on "Leader of the Pack", "Be My Baby," and "River Deep, Mountain High" and dozens more.

If the song you loved in the 60's wasn't credited to Greenwich-Barry, it was probably one of the other husband-wife teams: Mann-Weill or Goffin-King, but the ones from Greenwich-Barry tended to have a little more edge and urgency. Even their more light-hearted numbers, like "Da Doo Ron Ron," had a streetwise cool to them.

The half-Jewish Brooklyn girl called herself "Ellie Gaye" when she issued her first single for RCA in 1958, while still a student at Queens College. "Silly Isn't It" wasn't a hit, but she soon had a few with a songwriting partner. And that guy was...Tony Powers.

With Powers, Ellie wrote "He's Got The Power" for The Exciters," "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" for Darlene Love, and "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts?" (Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans). Phil Spector got songwriting co-credits on the last two, while Leiber & Stoller, fans of Ellie, published her early work.

She learned a lot about the mechanics of hit-making, and in 1962 after marrying Jeff Adelberg (aka Jeff Barry) the new songwriting team gave "Hanky Panky" to Tommy James, and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" to Manfred Mann. Ellie and Jeff divorced in 1966, but not before they had many, many more hits on the charts.

Ellie tried for a solo career in 1968 ("Composes, Produces, Sings" lp) which few people knew about at the time...except in Japan, where "Niki Hoekey" (which she didn't write) was a #1 hit. In 1973 Ellie recorded a new solo album, which included many of her early classics updated for a more contemporary sound, such as "Maybe I Know," originally a Top Ten for Lesley Gore. Ellie would partner with a variety of songwriters, and while the hits were fewer, she still had 'em, including "Sunshine After The Rain" in 1977 for Elkie Brooks and "Keep It Confidential," a 1983 blockbuster for Nona Hendryx.

As for Jeff Barry, he too had writing partners both before and after Ellie Greenwich. With Ben Raleigh, he'd written "Tell Laura I Love Her," and among the post-Ellie hits was "Sugar Sugar" co-written with Andy Kim.

In the early 90's, "Leader of the Pack," a musical based on Ellie's life, made it to Broadway. The Greenwich-Barry team was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1991. Ellie, at 68, was being treated for pneumonia in a New York City hospital when she suffered a fatal heart attack two days ago (August 27th).

Since you're at the Illfolks blog, where you don't expect or want a dumbass download of her hit songs as sung by The Shangri-La's, Dixie Cups, Lesley Gore and other easily available artists, here's 15 tracks...almost all sung by Ellie herself in the 60's and 70's, almost all written or co-written by her as well:

1. Silly Isn't It - as Ellie Gaye (1958)
2. You Don't Know (1965)
3. Nobody Thought (unreleased, Ellie with male back-up vocal)
4. If Ellie Doesn't Change (Unreleased, male group demo)
5. That's What They Said (Unreleased, male lead, demo)
6. Goodnight Goodnight (from her '68 solo album)
7. Niki Hoekey (by Vegas-Ford, a hit in Japan, '68 solo album)
8. Chapel of Love (1973 solo album)
9. A Long Time Comin' ('68 solo album)
10. Sunshine After the Rain ('68 solo album)
11. Maybe I Know (1973 solo album)
12. And Then He Kissed Me (1973 solo album)
13. Be My Baby (1973 solo album)
14. Today I Met The Boy... (1973 solo album)
15. River Deep Mountain High (1973 solo album)


Anonymous said...

"Sunshine after the Rain" was a hit for hit for Elkie Brooks in 1977 not 1973.Produced by Lieber& Stoller.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks for the correction...will amend the obit!

Nice to see Leiber and Stoller involved with it.

Apologies to any Elkieholics.

Gerard said...

Thank for uploading this nice cd