Friday, August 28, 2009

'Leader of the Pack'

Love the hair.

Ellie Greenwich wrote some of the era's biggest hits, from "Chapel of Love" to "Be My Baby" to "Leader of the Pack." Working with collaborators including Phil Spector and Jeff Barry, Ms. Greenwich became one of early pop's most prolific writers, known for creating catchy, saccharine songs for all-female groups like the Crystals and the Dixie Cups.

Ms. Greenwich, who died Wednesday at the age of 68, was one of many pop composers working in the early 1960s at New York City's Brill Building, a hub of activity for the pop music industry. Her neighbors there included Carole King, Burt Bacharach and the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who eventually hired Ms. Greenwich to write songs full time.

In the hothouse environment of the Brill Building, it seemed anything might happen. In 1963, Ms. Greenwich overheard a conversation about the royalties being enjoyed by the author of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and came up with her own confection, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" -- recorded by Darlene Love and later by many others, including Mariah Carey, U2 and Death Cab for Cutie.

Ms. Greenwich came to write for all-female groups after having performed in one herself, the Jivettes, which she formed while still in high school in Levittown, N.Y.

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