Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich, '60s hit songwriter, dies

Ellie Greenwich, the 1960s songwriter, singer and producer who wrote such enduring pop songs as Chapel of Love, Be My Baby, Do Wah Diddy Diddy and Leader of the Pack, has died in New York. She was 68.

Greenwich died of a heart attack on Wednesday at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, where she had been admitted a few days earlier for pneumonia treatment, according to her niece, Jessica Weiner.

Greenwich was inducted as a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991, as one of pop's most successful songwriters. Throughout the years she maintained a stable musical partnership with the legendary Phil Spector, whose "wall of sound" technique changed rock music. With Spector, she wrote some of pop's most memorable songs, including Da Doo Ron Ron and River Deep, Mountain High.

She also produced many hits with her ex-husband, Jeff Barry, including Leader of the Pack for girl group the Shangri-Las in 1964. In 1984 a Tony-nominated musical also called Leader of the Pack was created, based on Greenwich's life.

Born in 1940 in Brooklyn, Greenwich performed in talent shows as a child. As an ambitious teen she had her own group called the Jivettes, which performed at local functions.

In 1959 while she was attending Queens College she met her musical partner Barry and shortly after graduation she began working for songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. She had her first chart success with the Jay and the Americans song This Is It, which she wrote with Doc Pomus and Tony Powers.

She also received acclaim with Barry as the duo the Raindrops for their songs What a Guy and The Kind of Boy You Can't Forget.

Among the more famous songs she wrote are Baby I Love You for the Ronettes, Do Wah Diddy Diddy for Manfred Mann and Look of Love for Lesley Gore and the Copycats.

Greenwich also worked as an arranger and singer with such legendary artists as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

Her background vocals are featured on records as diverse as Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl, Blondie's Eat to the Beat and Cindi Lauper's She's So Unusual.

She co-produced Neil Diamond's early hits Cherry, Cherry and Kentucky Woman, and is credited with discovering Diamond and helping him get his start.

"She has remained a great friend and mentor over the years and will be missed greatly," Diamond said in a statement.

Greenwich is survived by her sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece.

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