Friday, September 11, 2009


Ellie Greenwich died on August 26th. She was a very talented songwriter who played a key role in what later became known as the Brill Building Sound.

Named after the building located at 1619 Broadway in New York City, these songs was written by a talented group that included Ellie and Jeff Barry, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Carol King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharat and Hall David and Phil Spector.

Collectively they were responsible for much of the music that was played on AM radio in the early 60's. Before the Beatles and the British Invasion in 1964, most of the top ten hits of the day had their songwriting origins in this building.

Ellie wrote or co-wrote her share of 60's hits including Be My Baby (The Ronettes), Da Do Ron Ron (The Crystals), Leader of the Pack (The Shangri-Las) , Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darleen Love), Do Wah Diddy (Manfred Mann) and River Deep, Mountain High (Ike and Tina Turner).

I was a perfect age for this music in the early 60's. I was just getting my feet wet with an AM radio. How lucky to be hearing songs of this quality. One of her songs that I remember well from those days was Be My Baby which went to #2 on the Pop charts for The Ronettes. Produced by Phil Spector, it was one of the early examples of his Wall of Sound. Have a listen:

Ellie co-wrote two great hits for the Crystals. One was Da Do Ron Ron which was a big hit at The Hill School and went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another was Then He Kissed Me which Ellie also wrote with Jeff Barry and Spector.

It is amazing to think that so many classic songs could have come from one group of writers in such a short time period. A lot of talent was on display at a very key time for modern music.

In a curious connection to music that I grew to love later, Al Kooper was also in the mix at the Brill Building at the same time. In fact, he wrote This Diamond Ring which was a #1 hit for Gary Lewis and the Playboys in 1965. Kooper went on to play on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited sessions and is credited with making up the signature organ riff on Like a Rolling Stone. See my post on Kooper from August 27, 2008.

Ellie Greenwich and all of these songwriters played a very important part in our musical heritage. Check out their songs when you can.


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