Monday, August 31, 2009

Rant #77: "Larger" Obituaries Should Not Take So Much Precedence Over "Smaller" Ones

When you have a public figure like Sen. Ted Kennedy die, it almost seems as if the world stops. Nothing else matters as we grieve for this fallen icon. Even if we weren't truly enamored by him, the Kennedy saga plays out like our own royalty.

Add into this the continued Michael Jackson nonsense, and you get two obituaries, and their continued coverage, that overshadows all other deaths that have taken place during about the same period of time.

One death that you may have missed was of a person who you probably knew better from her songs than from her name.

Ellie Greenwich, who died on August 26, was one of the most prolific songwriters of her generation. Often working with collaborators like Jeff Barry, she churned out a bushelful of hits in the 1960s, including "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" "River Deep, Mountain High," and "Leader of the Pack." That is just naming three of the dozens of hits she had as a writer, and just three of the hundreds of songs that were put out that had her name as a writer.

She personified the famous "Brill Building Sound" as both a writer and a producer. She was one of the first female rock and roll producers, and helped Neil Diamond attain fame as a solo artist during a period when he was primarily known as a songwriter.

She was also the focus of a long-running Broadway show, "Leader of the Pack," which was loosely based on her life.

Another one you might have missed was Drake Levin, the guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who died almost fittingly on July 4.

Although he has become a mere footnote in the history of rock and roll, he was the guitarist of the band when they were first being noticed nationally after being sensations in the Pacific Northwest for a number of years. He played on many of their early hits including "Kicks," the first anti-drug rock song.

He left the Raiders in 1966 when they were achieving mass popularity to go into the military. He later pursued his craft as a session guitarist for a number of popular acts including Emitt Rhodes.

I know Greenwich and Levin were not up to the levels of Kennedy and Jackson, but their deaths--and lives--should be recognized, and not overshadowed by bigger and more world-shaking passings.


  1. Ellie's music was wonderful. Coincidentally, I started listening to some obscure songs by her right before I read this post.

  2. She had a knack for saying a lot in a two minute song, and used so few words to say it in. Her music was fun and intoxicating. She will be missed.

    The Raiders' music was fun too, and that band has never, and probably won't ever, get their due. Mark Lindsay, Paul Revere and their revolving cast of characters could really rock, and you can hear their influence on many bands, including Van Halen.



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