Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leader of the Pack

While the nation mourns the loss of Ted Kennedy, I hope the passing of another notable gets, well, noted.

It was an "awww" moment for me this morning when I learned of the passing of Ellie Greenwich. You probably know her name, you unquestionably know her work. If you've spent any time at all listening to the great hits in the years leading up to the British Invasion, probably 80% of the songs you've enjoyed were the work of about four or so songwriting teams. Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry were one of them. It's not practical, and probably not even necessary, to list her hits here. Our lives touched once, sorta-kinda, in the most indirect way possible, and it was a small, strange experience I've always found oddly heartwarming.

Years ago, my wife and I belonged to a group of sign language students who, in the spare time we seemed to have in those days, used to get together at our house to work out signed renditions of various popular songs. (I'll put our "Chipmunk's Christmas Song" next to anyone's.) At one point we were working on "Leader of the Pack'" and, as often happened before Al Gore invented the Internet, had a disagreement over one part of the lyrics we were listening to. (Ok, we all agreed on the lyrics except for one of us who had an absurd interpretation of one line that I would even now be embarrassed to say.) I knew that Ellie Greenwich worked out of New York, and thought if I could look up her office address, we could drop her a "note" (a primal form of written communication that existed before e-mails that younger readers can ask their grandparents about) and settle the lyric question. What I found in the NY telephone book was a phone number with no address listed, which I took to mean Ms. Greenwich worked out of a home office. (One of the advantages of working in a profession that doesn't involve large industrial machines, I suppose.) I'll say a lot of things to a lot of different people, but even in those days there was no way I was going to call a famous songwriter at home and ask her about a lyric she'd written 30 years before. Another much bolder member of our group made the call and got to speak to her. Explaining our dilemma, my friend asked what the line after "One day my dad said 'Find someone new' " was. Pausing a moment to think, singing through the lyrics and, most of all, exhibiting enormous kindness, she responded that it was, "I had to tell my Jimmy we're through." My friend thanked her profusely and reported back to us.

I've sometimes wondered what Ms. Greenwich thought of that strange phone call, in the unlikely event she thought of it at all; when you've got her list of accomplishments, things like that probably don't stand out. For those of us on the other end of the phone, however - older now certainly, and perhaps a little wiser - it was a memory, and a happy one at that.


A good bit of the early part of this week was spent in some pain due to an earache. It's a recurring thing I've more or less adjusted to but, unlike the ones before, this one didn't go away after a day. After three days of acetamitaphin (I don't think there are any extra "ita's" in there, but I could be wrong) and some homeopathic (Latin for "expensive and doesn't work very well") stuff I got at the drugstore, I was getting desperate.

Enter the Internet. According to, well, I don't know who but it was on the Internet so it must be true, a good treatment for some of the more common forms of earaches is to apply the liquid from a garlic clove to the inner ear. (My wife had suggested warm olive oil and, after reading the garlic suggestion, I though about just pouring some Italian dressing down my ear canal, but couldn't find any in the house.) Not experienced in this type of remedy but desperate for some relief, I got out the garlic press and gave it a try. I made two discoveries:

  1. If you're ever given a choice between putting either garlic in your ear, or the fires of hell, go with the fires. It will burn less.
  2. I woke up the next morning, and every morning since, free of ear pain. (I hate it when stuff that hurts so much works.)
Just thought I'd share...

Here Comes Treble

An entry or two ago I wrote about the tattoo my son James got. Now my son Jacob has joined the club. His is a g-clef, about 4 inches or so in height, on his right shoulder blade. I don't have a picture yet, but will post one when it's available.

I mentioned this to a (non-tattooed) friend today, and she told me of an interesting question she'd once been asked: if a law were passed saying you HAD to get a tattoo, what would you get and where? I'm still considering the question, and would welcome anyone who cares to sharing their answer. Could be wonderfully revealing.


miss alaineus said...

i would only be able to answer a question of the variety, 'you are such a nice girl, do you think you could of gotten that tattoo in a better place?' which is what i have been asked by folks off and on over the year. i am not sure what the relationship between placement and over 'niceness' is but i almost always answer 'NO' and that leads to one of those uncomfortable silences.

how does a tattoo make anyone inherently less nice? isn't that a stereotype? does that mean while it's horribly wrong to judge people on things like ethnicity and religion, but still acceptable to base prejudice based on personal choice/taste?

glad to hear the garlic worked. i might have to try that one!


Tawnya said...

That is a really cool memory and I am laughing about the Italian dressing in the ear thing... Hmm, tattoos, I have wanted a couple. I want a devil on my left shoulder and an angel on the right one. It basically signifies the fact that I am caught between them. Heven and hell.. or I could be really southern and put a rebel flag on the small of my back with the words rebel till I die...

DB said...

I'm not surprised at the reaction from Ellie Greenwich. Once a line has taken root in the imagination, gone through the shaping process and comes out in some real form, it isn't forgotten.

If I had to have a tattoo I would put it in some prominant place, like my forehead. And it would be my name, since everybody gets it wrong.

Gitana said...

I'm an olive oil remedy girl myself. Always seemed to work for the frequent earaches I got as a child.

As far as the tattoo, I prefer temporary or henna tattoos. It gives me the option of changing my body art to suit my mood. .

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

oldhousegal said...

If I HAD to get a tattoo? Hard question since I'm generally not into anything that causes sharp pain. But If I HAD to? I think I'd take a cue from Angelina Jolie and have all my cats names (living and dead) tatttoed on my upper arm, with the coordinates of where they were born. Of course, the coordinates would all be the same, so it would be a boring tattoo. Oh well...

Dave King said...

Funny the way we react to things - and even funnier the way we remember them! An excellent post.

Lisa said...

I am still laughing about choosing the flames of hell over garlic as an ear treatment! I will remember this remedy though. How sweet of Ellie to clarify the line in the song. I would bet she didn't forget that phone call.

Cathy said...

Been a long-time fan of Ellie and amazed so few of my generation knew what a genius she was. Very sorry to hear about that earache but you had me laughing at your expense, so sorry! Garlic - cure for everything. And olive oil (yer right Gitana) Ever try pure organic apple cider vinegar? Potent stuff, makes you feel evolved lol.