It’s a measure of the music industry’s male bias – and tedious obsession with the cult of the unhinged production “genius” – that Phil Spector gets all the credit for crafting the classic girl-group songs of the 60s, even though he wrote barely any of them.
Spector’s “wall of sound” was merely polish – the reason those songs sound so colossal is because of their titanic melodies, onrushing choruses, and universal, easily relatable lyrics. And that was mostly the work of songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who has died of a heart attack at the age of 68.
Alongside co-writer Jeff Barry, Greenwich had a knack for taking sweet lyrics of innocent teenage love – which in lesser hands might sound schmaltzy – and propelling them heavenward, into the realm of the epic. Hence The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’, which boasts a chorus so immense it made Brian Wilson swerve off the road when he first heard it, so taken aback was he by the perfection of the hook.
That sense of epic scale condensed – grand emotions contained within a sub-three-minute pop song – characterises so many of Greenwich’s songs, not least the song she wrote for Darlene Love, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’, a song so heart-racingly brilliant it’s a tragedy that people only listen to it in December.
By way of tribute, we’ve put together this playlist of her songs. Here’s what’s on it:
The Ronettes, ‘Baby I Love You’
The Ronettes, ‘Be My Baby’
The Shangri-Las, ‘Leader Of The Pack’
Darlene Love, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home’ (we’ve included the Raveonettes version here)
The Dixie Cups, ‘Chapel Of Love’
Tina and Ike Turner, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’
The Crystals, ‘Then He Kissed Me’
The Crystals, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’