Bob Crewe was Major 50s, 60s Music Force for
Frankie Valli, others
Bob Crewe, a singer, songwriter and producer who helped write “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and other top-10 hits for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the 1960s as well as the risque pop-disco favorite “Lady Marmalade,” died Sept. 11 in Scarborough, Maine. He was 83.
The cause was complications from a fall several years ago, said his brother Daniel Crewe. A longtime Los Angeles resident, Bob Crewe moved to a nursing home in Maine about four years ago where he was in declining health follinwing the fall.
Mr. Crewe, a 1995 inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, entered the music business in the 1950s initially as a singer. With his blonde teen idol looks and buoyant voice, Mr. Crewe enjoyed a modicum of success with a jazzy, Bobby Darin-esque version of “The Whiffenpoof Song” in 1961.
Obviously, Crewe played a big part in the Four Seasons Story – perhaps as much as anyone other than Franki Valli, himself.
Crewe came in for some criticism for ‘selling out’ with his own less label, where he licensed and released, perhaps , lesser quality versions of hit songs on what appeared to be a ‘budget’ label. Nonetheless, during the 50s and ’60s as a songwriter and producer, Crewe was among the tops. His contribution to the Four Seasons, alone, was probably enough to put him into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Bob Crewe discussing and performing his song Lady Marmalade that was a big 70s hit for Patti Labelle
along with performing Four Seasons and Frankie Valli hits
Other 4 Seasons hits written or co-written by Crewe include, according to Wikipedia:
“Rag Doll“, “Silence Is Golden“, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)“, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Bye, Bye, Baby” (all co-written with Gaudio); “Let’s Hang On!” (wriiten with Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell); and “My Eyes Adored You” and “Lady Marmalade” (both co-written with Kenny Nolan).
He also had hit recordings withthe Rays, Diane Renay, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Oliver, Michael Jackson,Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack, Peabo Bryson, Patti LaBelle, and his own Bob Crewe Generation.
Crewe teamed up with Slay to write and produce the Rays’ “Silhouettes” , which became a doo-wop anthem of the era. Climbing to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1957, “Silhouettes” displayed the flair for story-driven lyrics, innovative musical “hooks”, and a final lyrical twist that were to become known as Crewe trademarks. In 1965, with a slightly faster tempo, “Silhouettes” became a hit again for the British group Herman’s Hermits, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As the “Four Seasons sound” became more and more defined, other signature touches emerged, including dense but pristine-sounding percussion, military-sounding march cadences and drum-stomps of “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and “Walk Like a Man”, and the other-worldly glissandos of “Candy Girl“. The sophisticated harmonic patterns of the Four Seasons punctuated by the distinctive falsetto of Frankie Valli were at once classic and innovative, as were Crewe’s use of a melancholy harmonica in “Big Man in Town” and the space-era organ of “Save It for Me“.
In addition to his work with the Four Seasons, Crewe also oversaw recording sessions by such artists as Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, and Ben E. King. He also cowrote “Navy Blue” (with Bud Rehak and Eddie Rambeau) and produced the record for singer Diane Renay. Renay’s recording made the top ten on the US pop chart in early 1964, and number one on the adult contemporary chart.
In 1965, Crewe formed his own record label, DynoVoice Records. With the release of the 1965 hit Concrete and Clay by Eddie Rambeau, DynoVoice launched a run of twenty-one Top 100 hits. The label found early success with the R&B trio the Toys, best known for their single “A Lover’s Concerto“, a #2 hit single, and “Attack”. The Toys were produced by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer for executive producer Crewe. Writing about “A Lover’s Concerto”, based on a melody inspired by “Minuet in G major“, critic Dave Thompson observed, “Few records are this perfect. Riding across one of the most deceptively hook-laden melodies ever conceived … ‘A Lover’s Concerto’ marks the apogee of the Girl Group sound.” The song has been subsequently recorded by the Lennon Sisters, the Delfonics, Sarah Vaughan, the Supremes, Mrs. Miller, Audrey Hall, and Kelly Chen.
Another DynoVoice powerhouse of the mid-1960s came when Crewe discovered a band called Billy Lee & The Rivieras. The group had limited success until he renamed them Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Under his direction, they scored eleven Top 100 hits, most notably Crewe’s powerful and muscular arrangements of “Devil with a Blue Dress On“, the group’s highest-charting single at #4, as well as “Sock It to Me, Baby!“, a #6 hit in 1967, and “Jenny Take a Ride“, which reached #10 in 1965.
Another often-recorded song from the 1965 Linzer-Randell album by the Toys is “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby“. The number, co-written by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, was also recorded by the Bay City, Michigan, rock group Question Mark and the Mysterians, best known for their 1966 hit “96 Tears“. “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” has enjoyed subsequent reinterpretations by Colour Field and Smash Mouth, among many others.
Crewe’s record label scored another hit with Norma Tanega’s off-beat, folksy “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog“. Crewe also helped bring success to the group the Tremeloes with their hit Epic Records cover of “Silence Is Golden“, a song originally written for and recorded by the Four Seasons.
Bob Crewe himself (recording as The Bob Crewe Generation) released Sid Ramin’s 1967 instrumental single “Music to Watch Girls By” (originally composed as aDiet Pepsi commercial jingle) on DynoVoice. The song became a Top 20 hit and spawned another successful instrumental version by Al Hirt and a vocal hit by Andy Williams. In 1967, Bob Crewe produced and wrote seven of the songs sung by Lesley Gore on her last commercially successful album, California Nights, including producing the title track. The Bob Crewe Generation also recorded the Bob Crewe-Charles Fox original soundtrack for the 1968 Paramount Pictures motion pictureBarbarella starring Jane Fonda and directed by Roger Vadim. The soundtrack for the cult favorite features vocals by Crewe and the group The Glitterhouse.
In 1967, Crewe and Gaudio scored one of their greatest successes with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“, recorded by Frankie Valli with the Four Seasons. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a gold record. Subsequently, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” has been recorded by a number of international vocalists and bands through the years. The 1968 version by singer Andy Williams climbed to #5 on the UK Singles Chart. Also achieving chart status over the decades were such other English-language versions as those by The Lettermen, Maureen McGovern, and Lauryn Hill. The song has also been heard in numerous motion pictures, including The Deer Hunter, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Conspiracy Theory, 10 Things I Hate About You, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Selected U.S. singles (written and/or produced by)
US peak chart position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart follows the song title. Only singles that reached a position of #30 or higher on the Hot 100 are listed here.
- 1957: “Silhouettes”, #3.
- 1957: “Daddy Cool”, #10.
- 1958: “La Dee Dah”, #9.
- 1959: “Lucky Ladybug”, #14.
- 1962: “Sherry”, #1
- 1962: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, #1
- 1963: “Walk Like a Man, #1
- 1964: “Dawn (Go Away)”, #3
- 1964: “Ronnie”, #6
- 1964: “Navy Blue”, #6
- 1964: “Rag Doll, #1
- 1964: “Save It For Me”, #10
- 1964: “Big Man in Town”, #20
- 1965: “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)”, #12 (“Bye Bye Baby” on initial release)
- 1965: “Let’s Hang On!”, #3
- 1965: “A Lover’s Concerto,” #2
- 1965: “Silhouettes,” #5 [Herman’s Hermits cover]
- 1965: “Girl Come Running,” #30
- 1965: “Jenny Take A Ride,” #10
- 1966: “Devil With A Blue Dress On,” #4
- 1966: “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine,” #13
- 1967: “Sock It To Me, Baby,” #6
- 1967: “Music To Watch Girls By,” #15
- 1967: “Silence Is Golden,” #11 [Tremeloes cover]
- 1967: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” #2
- 1967: “I Make a Fool of Myself,” #18
- 1967: “To Give (The Reason I Live),” #29
- 1969: “Jean,” #2
- 1969: “Good Morning, Starshine,” #6
- 1974: “Lady Marmalade”, #1
- 1974: “Get Dancin’,” #10
- 1975: “Swearin’ To God”, #6
- 1975: “My Eyes Adored You,” #1
- 1975: “I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo,” #23
- 1975: “The Proud One,” #22 [The Osmonds cover]
- 2001: “Lady Marmalade”, #1 [Christina Aguilera cover]
Bob Crewe was Major 50s, 60s Music Force for
Frankie Valli, others