Ellie Greenwich, the New York songwriter behind a string of 1960s hits that gave effervescent voice to unbridled teen romance including “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Chapel of Love” and “Be My Baby,” many of them in collaboration with producer Phil Spector, died Wednesday in New York of a heart attack, according to her niece, Jessica Weiner. She was 68.
“She was the greatest melody writer of all time,” Brian Wilson told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. The chief creative force of the Beach Boys, whose music was strongly influenced by many of the hits Greenwich and her then-husband Jeff Barry wrote with Spector, has often cited “Be My Baby” as his favorite record of all time.
Greenwich and Barry were part of the fabled Brill Building stable of professional songwriters that also included the teams of Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil as well as Paul Simon, Neil Sedaka and Neil Diamond.
Greenwich’s collaborations with Wall of Sound creator Spector are regarded among the greatest singles ever created. The music publishing rights organization Broadcast Music Inc. lists more than 200 songs she wrote or co-wrote, including “Then He Kissed Me” (the Crystals), “I Can Hear Music” (the Ronettes, Beach Boys), “Hanky Panky” (a hit for Tommy James & the Shondells), “Maybe I Know” (Lesley Gore) and the song Spector considered his greatest recording, “River Deep, Mountain High” (Ike and Tina Turner).
“Those songs are part of the fabric of forever,” said songwriter Diane Warren. “Her songs were written in the ’60s, and it’s 2010 almost, but they are as relevant and meaningful today as the day when they were born.”