Ellie Greenwich, 68; songwriter had many hits

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
Associated Press / August 27, 2009

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NEW YORK - Ellie Greenwich - who co-wrote some of pop music’s most enduring songs, including “Chapel of Love,’’ “Be My Baby,’’ and “Leader of the Pack’’ - died yesterday, according to her niece. She was 68.

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

Ms. Greenwich, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was considered one of the most successful songwriters in popular music. She had a rich 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.’’

But Spector wasn’t her only collaborator. She also had key hits with her former husband, Jeff Barry, including the dynamic song “Leader of the Pack’’ (years later, Broadway would stage a Tony-nominated musical with the same name based on her life).

“He was the first male I could actually harmonize with,’’ she once said.

Ms. Greenwich was a native of Brooklyn. While she garnered her greatest success as a songwriter, Ms. Greenwich started out as a performer. She performed in talent shows as a child, and by the time she was a teen, she had her own group, called The Jivettes.

She went to college, where she met Barry, and shortly after graduation, began working for songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, where she got her break. 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 had success with Barry as the duo The Raindrops with the songs “What a Guy’’ and “The Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget.’’

Ms. Greenwich also worked as an arranger and singer, a role that saw her working with artists including Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

She is also credited with helping Neil Diamond get his start and was a co-producer of early Diamond hits “Cherry, Cherry’’ and “Kentucky Woman.’’

“Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career,’’ Diamond said in a statement. “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.’’

Among the more famous songs she wrote are “Baby I Love You,’’ “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,’’ and “Look of Love.’’

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