Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

August 29, 2009

Farewell to the Great Ellie Greenwich–A True Poet of Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:14 pm

It was one of those life-changing moments you never forget.

I first heard “Be My Baby”, the classic Ellie Greenwich song (sung by the Ronettes, produced by Phil Spector) at a meeting of my extremely romantic high school Latin Club. Yes, I was a Latin Club nerd, we used to meet for fried donuts at the home of Miss Hall–who had known personally several of the ancient Roman poets, it seemed. Seriously she was a wondeful lady and the more I read, the more I pity anyone who hasn’t studied Latin, all the greatness you’re missing.

But anyway after a spellbinding discussion of irregular and intransitive verbs, people would play music and someone put on “Be My Baby” and all at once, as if illuminated by a flash of emotional lightning I understood love and longing. Or anyway the brilliant Brill Building pop version of it which ,along with Smokey Robinson and Motown captured something that is both eternal and heartbreakingly elusive.

But there was something special about “Be My Baby”. (there’s a lovely little film by that title by John Sayles*). It’s still a peak experience and one I think will continue to be rediscovered for generations to come.

What an amazing work! Nod to Phil Spector of course, but still…Ellie G. also wrote “River Deep, Mountain High”, Ike and Tina Turner’s haunting Spector classic. The Shangri Las! Darlene Love! Come on! She was a genius at manipulating music and emotion in a profoundly true way that elevated and ruined the lives of generations. Her work will last as long as love does.

As we’d say in Latin Club: Ave atque, Ellie.

*See comments for correction, Sayles’ film was “Baby it’s You”

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8 Comments »

  1. Not only a brilliant composer, but a beautiful woman. Check out the unbelievable video of Tina and the Ikettes doing “River Deep, Mountain High” on YouTube. That song has been repeating in my head ever since I heard Miss Greenwich passed on. For more about her, pick up the new Lieber-Stoller autobiography, “Hound Dog”, just published. Fun fact: Mike Stoller was on the Andrea Doria when it sunk (and survived) and Don Hewitt made his bones by being the only journalist to get film of the sinking of same!

    Comment by charlie finch — August 29, 2009 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  2. Boy, that “ruined” is “le mot juste”. Ellie and Smokey made me think I was a “vir heroicus sublimis” and then I met my wives!

    Comment by charlie finch — August 29, 2009 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  3. Latin and its verbs. Roman law may have been inevitable once they decided on the verb structure, piece of cake at that point. Latin is fading from the Catholic schools. I wish we had done Church Latin as that of ceremonies rather than doing the Vulgate (Bible) and then selections from the Aeneid but also reading Horace and Seneca and Spinoza. A touching Jewish persecution that is not noted is that Spinoza’s great book Ethics which may be a basis animating our Bill of Rights and democracy is written in Latin, the Church language of his time, and yet, I believe, is still on the Index of Forbidden Books.

    Comment by Michael — August 29, 2009 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  4. Your statement regarding Elie, Ave Ellie, begins some insight into why “Be my Baby” works as a song of “love and longing.” The most famous use of the verb occurs in a song which goes “Ave Maria qui es in caelis sanctificetur nomen tuum,” ‘Hail Mary.. who art in heaven, hallowed be the name.’ In this hit song of the 1200s, the man evokes the woman as ideal and and asks that that ideal be something that he can hold internally and will be his companion. Insofar as the companionship goes, the emphasis is on his inferiority in this love. Contrast this with “Be my baby” in which the man, or singer, is in the superior position but the two are joined in reflected value to each other and thus psychologically experience active and passive valuation.

    Comment by Michael — August 30, 2009 @ 2:09 am | Reply

  5. Your statement regarding Elie, Ave Ellie, begins some insight into why “Be my Baby” works as a song of “love and longing.” The most famous use of the verb occurs in a song which goes “Ave Maria qui es in caelis sanctificetur nomen tuum,” ‘Hail Mary.. who art in heaven, hallowed be the name.’ In this hit song of the 1200s, the man evokes the woman as ideal and and asks that that ideal be something that he can hold internally and will be his companion. Insofar as the companionship goes, the emphasis is on his inferiority in this love. Contrast this with “Be my baby” in which the man, or singer, is in the superior position but the two are joined in reflected value to each other and thus psychologically experience active and passive valuation.

    Comment by Michael — August 30, 2009 @ 2:10 am | Reply

  6. Your statement regarding Elie, Ave Ellie, begins some insight into why “Be my Baby” works as a song of “love and longing.” The most famous use of the verb occurs in a song which goes “Ave Maria qui es in caelis sanctificetur nomen tuum,” ‘Hail Mary.. who art in heaven, hallowed be the name.’ In this hit song of the 1200s, the man evokes the woman as ideal and and asks that that ideal be something that he can hold internally and will be his companion. Insofar as the companionship goes, the emphasis is on his inferiority in this love. Contrast this with “Be my baby” in which the man, or singer, is in the superior position but the two are joined in reflected value to each other and thus psychologically experience active and passive valuation.

    Comment by Michael — August 30, 2009 @ 2:12 am | Reply

  7. This is a lovely tribute to a wonderful writer. You bring out the way her work touches on its time, our time, and all time. “Be My Baby” and “River Deep Mountain High” are sublime, in their way. Her own recording of “Sunshine After the Rain” is lovely, too, and “Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out…!” still seems like good advice for all those who take themselves a little too seriously.

    Comment by Fred Mecklenburg — September 1, 2009 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  8. Isn’t the John Sayles’ film called, “Baby it’s you,” featuring the eponymous sixties teen pop tune of same name…?

    Yikes, you’re right! Thanks for correction. Surprized no one else noticed til now. . Will fix with note. It’s still a great film and it’s still a great song. Maybe somebody should do a “Be My Baby” film.

    Comment by Paintball Johnny Federici — September 13, 2009 @ 7:28 pm | Reply


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