Brooklyn-born Ellie moved to Levittown at age 11 and was writing songs by 13. At that time she formed her first “girls group,” The Jivettes, with two high school friends and the trio performed original songs at hospitals, schools and charity benefits throughout Long Island.
When her mother arranged a meeting for Ellie with Cadence Records president Archie Bleyer (of Everly Brothers and Chordettes fame), the young talent was advised “to keep writing, but finish school,” and Ellie did just that. She attended Hofstra University, was it’s Spring Queen and was graduated with top honors, a BA degree in English, and a listing in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.”
During her latter years in college, she met Jeff Barry. Eventually, the couple married and went on to become co-writers of some of the most memorable classic pop/rock hits.
In 1962, shortly after her college graduation and a three and a half week High School English teaching stint, Ellie began working in the offices of hot songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. There, in New York’s famed music business headquarters, The Brill Building, she wrote songs with Doc Pomus and Tony Powers and experienced her first chart successes with “This Is It,” sung by Jay and the Americans, and “He’s Got The Power,” sung by the Exciters. With Barry, Ellie formed The Raindrops (doing all the vocals) and they skimmed the top 10 with “What A Guy” and “The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget.”
Joining forces with legendary producer Phil Spector, a string of legendary hits were created, including: “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “And Then He Kissed Me,” “Chapel Of Love” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” With Barry, this trend continued with number one smashes, such as “Hanky Panky,” “Do Wah Diddy” and the epic “Leader Of The Pack,” co-written with Shadow Morton. Also, during these years, Greenwich reigned as one of New York’s top demo/session singers and vocal arrangers, working with artists ranging from Dusty Springfield and Lesley Gore to Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra. One of her most exciting sessions was re-arranging the background vocals on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain Of Fools” and working with Cissy Houston and the ‘Sweet Inspirations.’ During one of her many demo sessions, Greenwich met and “discovered” Neil Diamond and went on to co-produce all his early hits such as “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman,” doing background vocals as well. Ellie was also producing for Red Bird Records at a time when female record producers were a real rarity.
In the late 60’s, Greenwich found continued success in collaborations with Bob Crewe, having a top 40 record, as an artist, with “I Want You To Be My Baby” - in writing for The Hardy Boys TV series - and in singing on popular commercials for Cheerios, Clairol and Ford Mustang . She would become one of the city’s busiest female jingle writers and singers through the 70’s and into the 80’s being nominated for several Clios, including the “Ooo-La-La-Sasson” Jeans spot and entering the Clio Hall of Fame with a Levi’s Jeans commercial from England.
In recent years Ellie has worked with Desmond Child, Nona Hendryx, Cyndi Lauper and Paul Shaffer, among others. In 1984, “Leader Of The Pack,” a show about her life and music, opened at New York’s The Bottom Line. The success of this show led to a 1985 Broadway run at the Ambassador Theater, where it swept up an extraordinary trio of honors: A Tony Award nomination for Best Musical, a Grammy nomination for Best Cast Album and The New York Music Award for Best Broadway Musical.
Inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall Of Fame in 1991 - Ellie has developed a sitcom, a treatment for an original Broadway Musical, a children’s animated program with original characters, a Christmas movie and she is working on a book. In 1997, the #1 Dance and Pop record in England and Australia was Ellie’s song, “The Sunshine After The Rain.”
Elton John, Cher, Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, U2 Twisted Sister and Hanson are some of the contemporaries who have recorded her songs and “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home,” has started the Holiday season for over fifteen years on the Late Night With David Letterman Show. On TV, in movies, in books and magazines, etc. - there’s always a Greenwich song. “I guess you’ve really made it when your name and songs are in crossword puzzles, in Trivial Pursuit and other games and on Jeopardy.”
For the songs that continue to weave a backdrop in today’s media, for the decades of listening pleasure, and for her enduring contribution to the history of rock and pop music, we salute Ellie Greenwich.
Edited by Dennisian on 14 Jun 2007, 11:07
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