Two well-known, highly-specialized figures in the arts recently died. When Dominick Dunne, who passed Wednesday at 83, began covering celebrity trials, they were mainly the province of leering Steve Dunleavy manques, or Steve Dunleavy himself. Dunne, who was inspired to such journalism by the trial of his own daughter’s murderer, had an actual literary sensibility, and added an elevated tone and greater readability than usual to such coverage. He had started as a novelist and had planned to return to that craft at the time of his death.
Ellie Greenwich, who has died at age 68, was one of the best of the Brill Building songwriters and created “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby,” “Leader of the Pack,” and other archetypical girl-group tunes. After that style went out, she did not transform into a hippie singer-songwriter like Carole King, but lay fallow till the 1980s, when she summoned the will to tell her story (and write more tunes) for a biographical musical, Leader of the Pack. Her songs were often a little more complicated than the genre demanded, and though they indulged (indeed reveled) in cheap sentiment, Greenwich’s melodies and flair for turning the colloquial speech of schoolgirls into romantic poetry made them far less cheap, especially in the booming productions of Phil Spector. Zach Baron offers his own lovely tribute here.