RIP: Ellie Greenwich, 1940-2009

August 26th, 2009, 3:14 pm by Sara

ellieSongwriter Ellie Greenwich died today of a heart attack in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital. She was 68 years old.

Her songs were so yearning, so heartfelt, so universal that everyone wanted to record them.

And they did.

Everyone from Linda Ronstadt to to the Ramones, from the Beach Boys to the Flying Lizards, from U2 to Mariah Carey, from John Lennon to the Bay City Rollers, from Humble Pie to Death Cab for Cutie, from Shaun Cassidy to Melissa Etheridge and from Tiny Tim to Twiggy.

“Be My Baby”
“Chapel of Love”
“Hanky Panky”
“And Then He Kissed Me”
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”
“Da Doo Ron Ron”
“The Leader of the Pack”
“I Can Hear Music”
“River Deep, Mountain High”

Ellie Greenwich was a sensational pop songwriter, whose best work epitomized the classic “girl group” sound of the ’60s with smash hits for the Dixie Cups, the Ronnettes, the Crystals, the Shangri-Las and so many others.

Over the years, she collaborated with such fellow songwriters as her husband Jeff Barry, Phil Spector and Doc Pomus, to name just a few. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991.

The hit Broadway jukebox musical “Leader of the Pack” was based on her songs and life, earning a Tony nomination when it opened in 1985. She also starred in the production.

Greenwich was also a major talent as a vocal arranger on such classic hit records as Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

As a producer, she was at the helm for many of Neil Diamond’s early hit recordings as well as sessions for Connie Francis and Dusty Springfield.

And, yes, you can hear Greenwich’s voice handling the backing vocal chores on hits by everyone from Jim Croce to Blondie.

Greenwich is gone, but her music lives on and on. And so does her wisdom about the art of songwriting. Thanks to Paul Rapp for the link.


Stephen Bruton: 1948-2009

May 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm by Greg

It would be difficult to find someone with a more impeccable, unimpeachable resume in the realm of roots music than that of Texas tunesmith Stephen Bruton – singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer. It’s all the more impressive that he did all he did without ever seeming to draw much attention to himself.

He produced killer albums for Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Chris Smither, Storyville, Marcia Ball and Hal Ketchum. He played in Kris Kristofferson’s band for 17 years, and also manned the guitar position in bands for Bonnie Raitt, Christine McVie and Delbert McClinton. His songs were recorded by the likes of Martina McBride, Johnny Cash, Little Feat, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett and Patty Loveless. And his guitar playing talents can also be heard on albums by Gene Clark, T Bone Burnett, Geoff Muldaur, Peter Case, Elvis Costello, James McMurtry, Bobby Charles, the Wallflowers, Sonny Landreth, Carly Simon, Ray Wylie Hubbard and, of course, Willie Nelson.

Look down the yards-long list of roots greats and eventually you’ll come across the name of Barbra Streisand, too. Yes, that’s Bruton playing guitar on the soundtrack of the 1976 re-re-make of “A Star Is Born,” co-starring Streisand and Kristofferson.

Bruton’s final guitar recordings will likely also be heard in movie theaters. Bruton flew out to LA two months ago to play guitar on the T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Crazy Heart,” starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell.

Despite his total package as a musician and recording artist, Bruton only made a handful of albums in his own name over the course of a career than spanned more than 35 years. And if my memory serves me well, I believe that his only Nippertown performance as a bandleader was back in “>1995 at the Guilderland Performing Arts Center in Tawasentha Park.

I talked to him then and asked about his approach to the art of record producing. “Well, as a producer you have to be able to lose your ego and go after what the song itself dictates,” he explained. “The job is to bring the song and the artist into the spotlight, and it doesn’t have anything much to do with what you have in mind.

“It ain’t about the frame,” he pointed out. “It’s the picture.”

And after a two and a half year battle, Bruton finally succumbed to throat cancer on Saturday, May 9. He was 60 years old.

Steve Bruton Official Website

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