Remembering Ellie Greenwich
If you consume much media the year-end, decade-end-type pieces that basically take over at this time of year are beginning to wear especially thin. But then occasionally someone jolts you out of your desperate desire for January 1st and makes you relive some sort of aughts-related happiness or sadness. So it was yesterday, when the Times Magazine published a lovely little piece on Ellie Greenwich, the woman who wrote "Leader of the Pack" and "Out in the Streets" and "River Deep, Mountain High" and a dozen other songs ("Be My Baby," say), and who died in August at the age of 68. The outlines of her life are known well, but Rob Hoerburger's read on her work is dead on:
- The women Greenwich wrote about were dizzily (and sometimes dangerously) in love, but they weren't doormats. In fact in later songs they learned to deal with their growing pains, and to grow up: in Lesley Gore's "Look of Love," a teenager spies her old boyfriend with his new flame and silently, wistfully wishes them well. In the Shangri-Las' "Out in the Streets," the heroine sends her man back to the grimy gang he left for her, knowing he'll never be happy with scrubbed fingernails. And in that group's "Train From Kansas City," the familiar protagonist (the girl), prop (the ring) and refrain ("baby, baby") are accompanied by . . . a choice. There are two boys, and the girl gets to decide whom to jilt and whom to keep.
Greenwich seems destined for the kind of obscurity that accrues to those who write for others and she surely made peace with that fact in her own life long before she died. But man is her work worth remembering. See also: Ron Asheton. Ellie Greenwich: Crackle and Pop [NYTM]
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