Ellie Greenwich, Girl Group Pioneer and Co-Writer of "Be My Baby," "Leader of the Pack" and "Hanky Panky," Dies at 68
Published Aug 26, 2009Reports emerged this morning that esteemed songwriter Ellie Greenwich has died at the age of 68. Responsible for shaping the "girl group" sound of the 1960s, Greenwich worked with the likes of Phil Spector, the Crystals and the Shangri-Las, as well as Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper.
According to Greenwich's niece, the songwriter died of a heart attack at Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Greenwich had been in the hospital fighting pneumonia.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Greenwich started her musical career performing original songs in hospitals and schools. In her late teens, Greenwich got hooked on rock'n'roll, spending her free time at a record shop in Hicksville, NY, where she got her first break after the owner introduced her to label scouts. After finishing a bachelor in English at Hofstra University, Greenwich started working as a songwriter at Manhattan's famous Brill Building with producers such as Spector.
After marrying fellow songwriter Jeff Barry, the husband-wife duo wrote and recorded the original version of "Hanky Panky" under the name the Raindrops (most famously known for the cover by rock band Tommy James and the Shondells). Other hits Greenwich co-wrote were "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "Be My Baby," "Leader of the Pack" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
In 1985, the musical Leader of the Pack debuted in NYC chronicling Greenwich's career from when she started her first girl group at 15 until beginning her songwriting career in Manhattan; Greenwich wrote the music and part of the lyrics.
In 1991, Greenwich was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. Her work had earned her 33 BMI Awards.