About Ellie Greenwich
While Ellie Greenwich is oft-noted as one of the major influences of 60’s rock music and the queen of the Girl Groups, she was a pioneer for women in the music industry and her influence has transcended generations and can still be heard—and felt—today.
Brooklyn-born Ellie moved to Levittown at age 11 and was writing songs by her 13th birthday, when she and two school friends formed “The Jivettes,” performing covers and original songs at charity benefits, hospitals and schools across Long Island.
Archie Bleyer (Everly Brothers, Chordettes), then president of Cadence Records, met with Ellie at the request of her mother, and while impressed he advised her to finish school, which she did.
She’d graduate with top honors from Hofstra University with a BA in English (and the title of “Spring Queen”) and begin teaching English to a class of high school seniors. That lasted about three weeks.
It was at Hofstra that she first met Jeff Barry, who she would eventually marry and write some of the greatest pop/rock songs with, mainly while working in the offices of songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Her first chart success wasn’t written with Barry, however. Ellie, along with the legendary Doc Pomus and Tony Powers wrote both “This is It,” sung by Jay and the Americans and the Exciters’ “He’s Got the Power.”
She’d form The Raindrops with Barry and release one self-titled album which featured the hits “What A Guy” and ”The Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget,” both songs skimming the top 10.
But it was when they joined forces with legendary producer Phil Spector that produced the most iconic, everlasting songs, a list that includes "Be My Baby," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "And Then He Kissed Me," "Chapel of Love" and "River Deep, Mountain High."
They continued to find success even after their collaboration with Spector ended, penning chart-topping hits like "Hanky Panky," "Do Wah Diddy" and the epic "Leader Of The Pack," co-written with Shadow Morton.
Ellie was not only one of New York’s most sought-after songwriters, but one of its most in-demand demo/session singers and vocal arrangers. She was also one of the first female producers in the industry (mainly for Red Bird Records), opening the door for others.
These other endeavors found her working with a wide range of artists, including Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Lesley Gore (who also performed Ellie’s songs), Dusty Springfield, Frank Sinatra and Cissy Houston.
She was especially proud of her work with Aretha Franklin on the iconic “Chain of Fools,” as it was Ellie’s background vocal arrangement that sticks in your head after you hear it.
It was during a demo session that Ellie discovered Neil Diamond, and she would go on to co-produce and provide background vocals for all of his early hit songs, including “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman.”
The late 60’s found her working with the likes of Bob Crewe, writing for the Hardy Boys television series and singing in commercials for iconic brands such as Cheerios, Clairol and the Ford Mustang. Ellie also cracked the top 40 as a solo artist with “I Want You to Be My Baby.”
Those commercials vaulted Ellie into becoming one of the industry’s most sought-after jingle writers and vocalists in the 70’s and 80’s. She was nominated for multiple Clio Awards, including the classic “Ooo-La-La-Sasson” spot, while a Levi’s Jeans ad she wrote and performed on that only ran in England was inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame.
A show about her life and music, aptly titled “Leader of the Pack,” opened at New York’s legendary Bottom Line in 1984 and was such a rousing success, playing to standing-room-only crowds on a nightly basis that it was on Broadway a year later.
“Leader” enjoyed a successful run at the Ambassador Theater, and was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Musical), Grammy Award (Best Cast Album) and won the New York Music Award for Best Broadway Musical. “Leader” is still performed by schools, amateur groups and professionally around the world to this day.
Ellie would later work with artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), Nona Hendryx, Desmond Child and Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s long-time sidekick and musical director. In fact, her hit “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” officially kicked off the holiday season on Late Night with David Letterman for nearly 30 years.
Only John Lennon and Paul McCartney had more songs included in Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Songs of All-Time" (2004) than Ellie did.
Inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1991 and, posthumously, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, Ellie is also celebrated at her alma mater, with the "Garden of Ellie," featuring a sculpture of her, sitting alongside the university's music school.
Ellie’s music is not only timeless, but constantly around us, whether on the radio, television, in the movies or your neighbor’s living room.
Ellie was working on multiple projects up until her untimely passing in 2009, including a Christmas movie, an animated children’s program, a treatment for an original Broadway musical, a sitcom, a book and, of course, new music.
She was honored at Lincoln Center in 2011 with the "She's Got The Power, a Girl Group Extravaganza," a 10-hour affair that included a three-hour panel featuring the likes Lesley Gore, Paul Shaffer and Seymour Stein. That was followed by a lengthy concert which included performances by LaLa Brooks, Gore, Ronnie Spector, Shaffer and Steve Van Zandt, among others.
For all her professional success, Ellie Greenwich was a better person with a wonderful heart. She adored her fans, friends and family - anyone who knew her was better for it.
Ellie was a legend in every sense of the word.