born on 12/11/1931 in Newark, NJ, United States
died on 11/9/2014 in Scarborough, ME, United States
Bob Crewe (born Stanley Robert Crewe 12 November 1931, Newark, New Jersey) is an American songwriter, singer, manager, record producer and fine artist. He is also known for co-writing, with Bob Gaudio, a string of Top 10 singles for The Four Seasons. He is also known for his recordings with The 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 The Bob Crewe Generation.
Reared in Belleville, New Jersey, Crewe demonstrated an early gift for both art and music. Although lacking in formal musical training, he learned from many 19th and 20th century classical romantic composers as well as jazz and swing artists, including Stan Kenton, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. He studied for almost a year at Parsons School of Design in New York City with the intention of eventually pursuing a career in architecture. As of March 2010 he was the 71st most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history.
In 1953 Crewe met and partnered professionally with Frank Slay Jr., a young pianist from Texas. Their collaboration created several hit songs (including a small record label XYZ), for which Crewe performed as the demo singer. Crewe and Slay's 1957 recording session with The Rays for their XYZ label (picked up nationally by Cameo Records) produced two hits. Produced by Crewe, the record's A-side, "Silhouettes" reached #3 on The Billboard Hot 100 for 1957.
Crewe and Slay signed with new Philadelphia-based Swan Records. Sessions with Billy & Lillie, singers Billy Ford and Lillie Bryant, produced in 1958, the hit "Lah Dee Dah" which reached the #9 position on The Billboard Hot 100 and, the following year, Billy and Lillie's recording of "Lucky Ladybug" hit #14.
As a solo singer, Crewe recorded in 1961 a pair of albums, one of which produced a swing Ralph Burns-produced version of Yale University's signature "The Whiffenpoof Song". The record became a hit in New York.
During this period Crewe also worked as a fashion model, doing print layouts with Sandra Dee and Carol Lynley.
In the early 1960s, Crewe began writing with Bob Gaudio, who had, at age 15, and as a member of the Royal Teens, co-written the hit "Short Shorts." The first Crewe-Gaudio collaboration, "Sherry," was written by Gaudio and produced by Crewe. It became a #1 single in 1962 for The Four Seasons. The pair wrote many other songs for the group, including "Big Girls Don't Cry", another #1 hit single, "Rag Doll", also a #1 hit, "Ronnie", "Walk Like a Man", "Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)" and "Connie O".
Crewe collaborated with Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell on The Four Seasons hit "Let's Hang On!." Valli was also the first to record "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)".
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 in early 1964, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
In 1960, he appeared as himself in NBC's short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier and set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.
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. Still with DynoVoice, Crewe discovered a band called Billy Lee & The Rivieras. The group had limited success until he renamed them Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.
Crewe himself (recording as The Bob Crewe Generation) released the 1967 instrumental single "Music to Watch Girls By" (originally composed as a Diet Pepsi commercial jingle) on DynoVoice. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. In 1967, Crewe produced and wrote seven of the songs sung by Lesley Gore on her last commercially successful album, California Nights. The Bob Crewe Generation also recorded the Crewe-Charles Fox original soundtrack for the 1968 Paramount Pictures motion picture Barbarella. The soundtrack 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 Of You", recorded by Frankie Valli. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a gold record.
In 1969, Crewe collaborated with the singer known as Oliver, including the production of his pop hit "Jean" and "Good Morning Starshine". The latter song reached #3 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening singles surveys.
The Bob Crewe Generation reappeared as a chart act briefly in the mid-1970s, recording material for the disco era, with The Generation's 1970 LP "Let Me Touch You" (including covers of Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and "Two For The Road"). In 1975, Crewe wrote and produced disco material for The Eleventh Hour who had dance club success with at least three releases on 20th Century Records: "Hollywood Hot" (45 rpm single, number: TC-2215), "Bumper to Bumper" and "Sock It To Me/Its Your Thing".
In 1977, Crewe recorded in Memphis a solo album, Motivation. Barry Beckett co-produced.
Crewe had previously written two other hit singles with Nolan, which became back-to-back #1 records in 1975. "My Eyes Adored You," which originally had the working title "Blue Eyes in Georgia," was produced by Crewe and performed by Frankie Valli. When the record label baulked at releasing it, Crewe, certain of its quality and hit potential, bought back the rights for $4000. Despite widespread rejections from music industry pundits, the song became a hit for Frankie Valli, was the #1 chart-topping song of the year, and sparked a renewal of interest in The Four Seasons.
Another Crewe-Kenny Nolan collaboration, "Lady Marmalade," recorded by Labelle, became notorious for its sexually provocative, New Orleans-inflected chorus, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?" The song was the #1 chart-topper of 1974.
In 1984, a collaboration by Crewe and writers Jerry Corbetta and Bob Gaudio produced another Billboard Hot 100 success with the romantic duet "You're Looking Like Love To Me," sung by Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson. Another Crewe-Corbetta project, with singer-songwriter-producer Ellie Greenwich, was the original cast album for Greenwich's Broadway musical Leader of the Pack. The album was a Grammy Award nominee.
Crewe also worked as an artist, having designed a number of album covers as well as having had one-man gallery showings of his paintings.
Since 2005, Crewe has been featured as a supporting character (played originally by Peter Gregus) in Jersey Boys, the Broadway musical based on the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
In 1985, Crewe was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Selected U.S. Singles (Written and/or Produced By)
Artist and 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. Bold indicates a number one single.
- 1957: "Silhouettes", The Rays, #3
- 1957: "Daddy Cool", The Rays, #10
- 1958: "Lah Dee Dah", #9
- 1962: "Sherry", The Four Seasons, #1a
- 1962: "Big Girls Don't Cry", The Four Seasons, #1
- 1963: "Walk Like a Man, The Four Seasons, #1
- 1964: "Dawn (Go Away)", The Four Seasons, #3a
- 1964: "Ronnie", The Four Seasons, #6
- 1964: "Rag Doll", The Four Seasons, #1
- 1964: "Save It for Me", The Four Seasons, #10
- 1964: "Big Man in Town", The Four Seasons, #20a
- 1965: "Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)", The Four Seasons, #12
- 1965: "Let's Hang On!", The Four Seasons, #3
- 1965: "Jenny Take a Ride," Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, #10
- 1965: Silhouettes, Herman's Hermits, #5b
- 1966: "Devil With a Blue Dress On," Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, #4
- 1966: "Working My Way Back to You", The Four Seasons, #9a
- 1967: "Sock It to Me, Baby," Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, #6
- 1967: "Music to Watch Girls By," The Bob Crewe Generation, #15
- 1967: "Can't Take My Eyes off of You," Frankie Valli, #2
- 1967: "Silence is Golden", The Tremeloes, #11b
- 1969: "Jean," Oliver, #2a
- 1969: "Good Morning, Starshine," Oliver, #6
- 1974: "Lady Marmalade", LaBelle, #1b
- 1975: "Swearin' to God", Frankie Valli, #6
- 1975: "My Eyes Adored You," Frankie Valli, #1
- 2001: "Lady Marmalade", Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil' Kim & Mýa, #1b
a Producer only
b Writer only
All other songs, Crewe was either a producer and writer, or the status is unknown.
- Kicks, Warwick W-2009 (1960, out-of-print)
- Crazy In The Heart, Warwick W-2034 (1961, out-of-print)
- All The Song Hits Of The Four Seasons, Philips 600150 (1964, out-of-print)
- Bob Crewe Plays The Four Seasons' hits, Philips 600238 (1967, out-of-print)
- Music To Watch Girls By, DynoVoice 9003 (1967, out-of-print)
- Music To Watch Birds By, DynoVoice 1902 (1967, out-of-print)
- Barbarella (Original Soundtrack Recording), originally published by Famous Music Corporation (1968, out-of-print), re-released by Soundtrack Classics SCL 1411 (2004)
- Let Me Touch You, CGC 1000 (1970, out-of-print)
- Street Talk, Elektra Records 7E-1083 (1976, out-of-print)
- Motivation, Elektra Records 7E-1103 (1977, out-of-print)
- The Best of The Bob Crewe Generation, Varèse Vintage 302 066 703 2 (Feb 2006)
- Bob Crewe at the Songwriters' Hall of Fame
- Bob Crewe at the Internet Movie Database
- The Complete Bob Crewe Label Discography