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Memorial built in name of Ellie Greenwich

By Morgan Smith, Special to the Chronicle

This week, finishing touches are being made to the garden and park area beside the New Academic Building, which the family of the famed singer-songwriter and Hofstra Alumna Ellie Greenwich is donating in honor of her memory.  

"There's going to be an underground sprinkler, cobblestone walkway, lighting and patio seating," said Steve Servedio, a member of the Hofstra maintenance staff working on the construction site. Construction has been going on for the last few weeks.

 Students are excited for the new outdoor addition to campus. "It will be nice to have an outside area to sit and hang out in between classes and rehearsals," said Melody Hall, junior Music major.

According to the songwriter's Hall of Fame, Ellie Greenwich is one of the most successful songwriters of the modern pop music era. Her songs, which have sold in the tens of millions, have earned her 25 gold and platinum records, along with over 33 BMI Awards and numerous civic and Hofstra Alumni citations. Some notable songwriting credits include "Leader of the Pack," "Chapel of Love," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Then He Kissed Me" and "Solitary Man."

She wrote her first song when she was 13 and formed an all-girls group called "The Jivettes." In an interview, her sister Laura Weiner spoke extensively on Greenwich's love for creativity. "Her passion was music and creating," said Weiner.

After graduating high school in 1957, Greenwich attended Queens College for one year as a Music major. In her biography she speaks about her traumatic experience at Queens. "I made and wrote a record for RCA, and proudly brought it to my music class, only to have my Professor play it for the class, while holding his arm on the handle causing the needle to scratch and ultimately warped my record—telling me and the rest of the class that's what he thought of this kind of music and that I'd better get really serious…I did…I quit!"

Greenwich immediately transferred to the University where she majored in English and got a minor in Secondary Education.  

"Ellie had some of her best experiences at Hofstra," said Weiner.

While at the University, she performed in many musicals in the John Adams Playhouse, was voted "Outstanding Senior Woman" and voted "Spring Queen" in 1961. During her later college years, she met Jeff Barry whom she later married along with being co-writers.

After graduating college, Greenwich began working in New York's famed music business headquarters, The Brill Building, for hot songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  

"Ellie was a woman before her time," said Weiner. "It wasn't accepted for a woman to be connected in that end of the business, it was a man's world." However, gender inequality did not stop Greenwich during these years. She seized the charts as one of New York's top demo/session singers and vocal arrangers, working with artists ranging from Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald, to Frank Sinatra.

In 1985 "The Leader of the Pack," a show about her life and music appeared on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award in the best musical category. Cotemporaries such as Elton John, Celine Dion, Cher, Bette Midler, Tina Turner and U2 also recorded her songs. In May of 1991 Greenwich was inducted into The Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

"Despite her fame, Greenwich was very humble and good spirited," said Weiner. "Her passion was for music and creating; not fame and glory. She was a comedian and always knew how to make everyone laugh, but never understood the impact she had on people..."

 On Sunday, Oct. 30 at 11 a.m. a dedication ceremony and reception will be held to commemorate the garden. All are welcome.

The memorial dedicated to Greenwich is outside the NAB. (Cody Heintz/The Chronicle)

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