Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Farewell to a Songwriter

This month on the 11th, we lost 83-year-old Bob Crewe, a New Jersey-born songwriter, dancer, singer, manager, and record producer. He was known for producing, and co-writing with Bob Gaudio, a string of Top 10 singles for The Four Seasons. He was also known for his hit recordings with  Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Oliver, Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and Roberta Flack.

Here are just a few of those hit records Crewe co-wrote and produced. Written with Bob Gaudio (keyboardist/backing vocalists of The Four Seasons), "Big Girls Don't Cry" was the second #1 hit for The Four Seasons in 1962, spending 5 weeks topping the charts, like its predecessor "Sherry." Sung mostly in falsetto by Frankie Valli, this song helped The Four Seasons become the first rock-era act to hit the top spot on the Hot 100 with their first two chart entries.

First made famous by The Rays in 1957, Bob Crewe's "Silhouettes" appeared on the charts again in the mid-'60s with Herman's Hermits. Crewe saw a couple embracing through a window shade as he passed on a train and quickly set about turning the image into a song. From 1965, this Hermits' version reached #5 in the US and #3 in the UK. 

Another Crewe and Gaudio collaboration, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" was originally released as a single by Frankie Valli in 1965, however, was more successful when recorded by The Walker Brothers in 1966. A #1 hit in the UK and #13 in the US, this version was an imitation of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" style, including a wordless chorus, strings, and echo effect, with the Walker Brothers even sounding like the Righteous Brothers.

"Music to Watch Girls By" was the first Top 40 hit by Bob Crewe using his own name, recorded by his group The Bob Crewe Generation. Crewe first heard the song performed in a "jingle demo" for a Diet Pepsi commercial, composed by Sidney "Sid" Ramin. The big-band, horn-driven recording went to #15 on the pop chart and #2 on the Easy Listening chart. According to Greg Adams, writing for All Music Guide, the song "exemplified the groovy state of instrumental music at that time."

And finally, we'll conclude with a 1967 single by Frankie Valli, the Crewe/Gaudio tune "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Reaching #2 and becoming one of Valli's biggest solo hits, this song has had a major cultural impact, with hundreds of cover versions, many of which have been on the charts themselves in different countries. The song is a staple of television and film soundtracks, even being featured as part of the plot of some films, such as when the lead characters sing or arrange their own version of the song.

Farewell to the talented Bob Crewe. Your numerous hits will continue to play on.

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