Robert S. Crewe – November 12, 1930 – September 11, 2014
Bob Crewe, known for writing hit songs from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, including “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Rag Doll,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Lady Marmalade,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” and as the lyricist of the hit Broadway show Jersey Boys, died peacefully, with his brother Dan Crewe by his side, on Wednesday, September 11, 2014 in Scarborough, Maine.
Crewe was a dynamic, innovative record producer, producing such recording artists as The Four Seasons, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Oliver, Lesley Gore, Frankie Valli and Bobby Darin. He was also mentor to songwriters Kenny Nolan, L. Russell Brown, Desmond Child and Cindy Bullens.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Bob Crewe spent his formative years in Belleville, NJ. He moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design with the desire to become an architect. After a year, Bob left Parsons to embark on a musical career singing on recording demos and writing songs with his first writing partner Frank C. Slay. Together they wrote “La Dee Dah,” “Bells Bells Bells,” and “Lucky Ladybug” for Billy & Lillie. Bob’s lyrics in the hit song, “Silhouettes,” by The Rays, showcased early on his lyrical storytelling. Crewe and Slay also wrote hits for Freddie Cannon including “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” and “Tallahassee Lassie.”
In 1961, Bob Crewe turned to his singing talents on Warwick Records, with “The Whiffenpoof Song,” “Water Boy, and “Voglio Cantare.” Bob’s dynamic character and striking good looks triggered teen idol status, landing him on the cover of 16 Magazine and on early 60’s national talent shows. Earlier, he had been a successful fashion model, appearing as the face of Coca-Cola in 1957.
During the flurry of music activity in the early Sixties, Bob discovered a young vocal group from New Jersey, hiring them to sing backup on recording demos and singles. With the addition of a young songwriter to the group, Bob Gaudio, Crewe renamed the group The Four Seasons. The songwriting collaboration of Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio garnered many hits for The Four Seasons including “Rag Doll,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Big Man In Town“ and “Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye).”
In 1967, Bob heard a jingle on the radio for a Diet Pepsi commercial and rushed into the studio to record it as a single. “Music To Watch Girls By” spawned the Bob Crewe Generation and was a major hit.
Bob Crewe innovated the concept of independent record production, creating his own label, DynoVoice Records. The Crewe Group of Companies, a complex of several companies that included three publishing houses, Saturday Music, Tomorrow’s Tunes, and Genius Music was formed and administered by his brother Dan Crewe.
Bob’s musical talent discoveries included an undeniable list of heavyweights. After The Four Seasons, Bob found raw talent in a young band from Detroit and renamed them Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. The collaboration spawned three Top 10 hits, “Jenny Take A Ride,” “Sock It To Me,” and “Devil In A Blue Dress.”
Having moved from New York to Los Angeles in the mid 1970’s, Bob Crewe’s music success continued with young songwriter Kenny Nolan, penning the hit, “My Eyes Adored You,” for Frankie Valli’s solo effort. In 1974, with continued writing collaboration, Bob and Kenny wrote the Number 1 hit, “Lady Marmalade,” which Allen Toussaint recorded with LaBelle.
In the 1980’s, Bob Crewe renewed his focus on his passion for painting and sculpture. Bob had successful showings at Earl McGrath Gallery, Tom Solomon’s Garage, and Jan Baum Gallery, all in Los Angeles.
Nearly every song written by Bob Crewe with his collaborators charted in Billboard’s top 20. In 1992, Bob was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was also feted by BMI in 2000, with a Millennium award for the third most played song on the radio, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” Bob’s compositions have been heard in numerous films and television shows, and include the score for the soundtrack of the cult classic film Barbarella, written with Charlie Fox.
In 2011, Bob and Dan Crewe established the Bob Crewe Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to support scholarships in the fields of art and music. It also supports LGBTQ issues. The Foundation recently granted the Maine College of Art $3 million to establish the Bob Crewe Program for Art and Music. The program introduces, for the first time, a music program at a college of Art.
Bob Crewe is survived by his brother, Dan Crewe of Cumberland, Maine, niece Reid Bullens Crewe of Portland, Maine, and Cidny Bullens of Portland, Maine. He is also survived by niece Therese Crewe of Newton, NJ, nephew Thomas C. Crewe of Hewitt, NJ, and many close friends and colleagues. Bob was very proud of his sobriety as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 37 years.
Bob will be missed, but not forgotten– every twenty minutes a Bob Crewe song is playing somewhere in the world.
Donations can be made in Bob’s name to the Maine College of Art Scholarship Fund, the University of Southern Maine School of Music Scholarship Fund, or The Frannie Peabody Center, Portland, Maine.