Howard Greenfield (March 15, 1936 – March 4, 1986) was an American lyricist and songwriter, who for several years in the 1960s worked out of the famous Brill Building. He is best known for his series of successful songwriting collaborations, including one with Neil Sedaka from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, and a near-simultaneous (and equally successful) songwriting partnership with Jack Keller throughout most of the 1960s.
Greenfield co-wrote four songs that reached #1 on the US Billboard charts: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", as recorded by Neil Sedaka; "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart", both as recorded by Connie Francis, and "Love Will Keep Us Together", as recorded by The Captain & Tennille. He also co-wrote numerous other top 10 hits for Neil Sedaka (including "Oh! Carol", "Stairway to Heaven", "Calendar Girl", "Little Devil", "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", and "Next Door to an Angel"); Connie Francis (including the "Theme to Where The Boys Are" and "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own"); The Everly Brothers ("Crying In The Rain"); Jimmy Clanton ("Venus In Blue Jeans") and The Shirelles ("Foolish Little Girl"). As well, Greenfield co-wrote the theme songs to numerous 1960s TV series, including Gidget, Bewitched, The Flying Nun and Hazel.
In 2005, "Is This The Way To Amarillo", a song Greenfield had written with Sedaka in the early 1970s, reached #1 on the UK charts in the original 1971 version by Tony Christie. (Note that the video featured an all-star celebrity line-up lip-synching the track, and the proceeds went to charity.) The record stayed at #1 for 7 weeks, and became the UK's best-selling record of the millennium to that time.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, by his late teens Greenfield formed a songwriting partnership with Neil Sedaka, a friend he had met as a teenager when they both lived in the same apartment building, in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn.1 Greenfield was educated at Abraham Lincoln High School.2
Their first recorded compositions took up both sides of the 1956 non-charting debut single by The Tokens, of which Sedaka (but not Greenfield) was briefly a member.3 They then went on to supply the song "Passing Time" to The Cookies,4 as well as other non-hit singles to doo-wop and groups The Clovers and The Cardinals.5 At this point, though their songs were being recorded, the income derived from these songs was minimal, and Greenfield worked as a messenger for National Cash Register.6
In the spring of 1958, Greenfield and Sedaka signed to Al Nevins and Don Kirshner's Aldon Music as songwriters, which had offices at 1650 Broadway in New York. (The company later moved to the Brill Building.) In their first year there, Greenfield and Sedaka wrote material for Jimmy Clanton and Bobby Darin,7 and scored their first major pop hit single with Connie Francis' "Stupid Cupid", which hit #14 on the US pop charts in September 1958. They would also write Francis' later hits "Fallin'", "Frankie" and the "Theme to Where the Boys Are," the film in which she starred.
When, in 1958, Sedaka signed to RCA Records as a solo artist, he and Greenfield composed a string of hits for Sedaka to record - among them "The Diary", "Oh! Carol", "Stairway to Heaven", "Calendar Girl", "Little Devil", "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", "Next Door to an Angel" and the chart-topping "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". Sedaka's recordings eventually sold a combined 25 million records.8
As Sedaka's promotional and touring commitments began taking up more and more of his time, Kirshner encouraged Greenfield to collaborate with other Aldon writers. Beginning in 1960, Greenfield began a regular collaboration with Jack Keller; they would write songs together every Monday and Wednesday for six straight years.9 Successful Greenfield/Keller collaborations included two consecutive US #1 hits for Connie Francis: "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart". They also wrote another Francis top 10 hit, "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own", Jimmy Clanton's top 10 hit "Venus In Blue Jeans", as well as songs recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ernest Tubb, Patti Page and Brenda Lee.10 In addition, Greenfield and Keller supplied the theme music for U.S. television programs such as Gidget, Bewitched and The Flying Nun.
Greenfield also collaborated with other Aldon songwriters, including Helen Miller, with whom he co-wrote "Foolish Little Girl" (The Shirelles' final Top Ten hit), "It Hurts to Be in Love", originally intended for Neil Sedaka but ultimately recorded by Gene Pitney, as well the theme for the TV series "Hazel".11 He also collaborated with Bill Buchanan recording a novelty record called "The Invasion" as Buchanan and Greenfield in 1964.
As well, Greenfield's one and only collaboration with Aldon songwriter Carole King resulted in "Crying in the Rain", a top ten hit for the Everly Brothers in 1962. The collaboration came about when, on a whim, two Aldon songwriting partnerships decided to switch partners for a day - Gerry Goffin (who normally worked with King) partnered with Jack Keller, leaving King and Greenfield to work as a pair for the day. Despite the commercial success of their collaboration, King and Greenfield never wrote another song together.12
Sedaka and Greenfield also continued to work together as Sedaka's schedule allowed. After Sedaka's singing career cooled in 1963, they kept writing hits for other artists, including The 5th Dimension's and Tom Jones' "Puppet Man".
Greenfield moved to Los Angeles in 1966,13 but still continued to collaborate with Sedaka and Keller, both of whom moved to California within a year or two of Greenfield.
Sedaka began working with other lyricists in 1970, though he and Greenfield still occasionally worked together after this time; Sedaka and Greenfield ended their songwriting partnership in 1973. In 1975, their song "Love Will Keep Us Together" (originally recorded by Sedaka in 1973) topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in a cover version by Captain & Tennille, as well as earning a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. This version of "Love..." was the best-selling single of the year.
Though no new compositions of Greenfield's charted after this time, Sedaka had a substantial hit in 1975 with a drastically re-arranged version of the Greenfield/Sedaka composition "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". As well, a re-release of the Greenfield/Sedaka song "Is This The Way To Amarillo" (originally a UK hit for Tony Christie in 1971) became the UK's best-selling record of 2005.
Greenfield was openly gay,14 even though during the era in which he lived it was unusual to be open about this. Being openly gay was, however, not entirely uncommon amongst people in the entertainment industry who worked outside the public eye. His companion from the early 1960s to his death was cabaret singer Tory Damon; the two lived together in an apartment on East 63rd Street in Manhattan before moving to California in 1966.15
Greenfield died, aged 49, in Los Angeles, California in 1986 from complications due to AIDS. He was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills). Damon died from AIDS complications just a few days later.16
In 1991, Howard Greenfield was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
- "A Woman is a Sentimental Thing"
- "Baby Roo"
- Bewitched (theme from ABC TV sitcom starring Elizabeth Montgomery)
- "Birds Do It"
- "Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart"
- "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"
- "Calendar Girl"
- "Call Me Crazy"
- "Candy Heart"
- "Counting Teardrops"
- "Cry a Little Sometimes"
- "Crying in the Rain"
- "Does Goodnight Mean Goodbye?"
- "Don't Hide Your Love"
- "Don't Read the Letter I Wrote You"
- "Everybody's Somebody's Fool"
- "Find Yourself a Rainbow"
- "Foolish Little Girl"
- "Funny Thing About Time"
- "Get Rid of Him"
- "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen"
- "Heartache Named Johnny"
- "High School Girl"
- "I Gotta Find Her"
- "I'm Not the Marrying Kind"
- "I Think It’s Gonna Rain"
- "I Wish I'd Never Been Born"
- "Is This the Way to Amarillo"
- "It Hurts to Be in Love"
- "King of the Mountain"
- "Let's Go to the Movies"
- "Little Devil"
- "Love Will Keep Us Together"
- "Lovey Kravezit"
- "Lucky in Love with You"
- "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own"
- "Next Door to an Angel"
- "Nobody's Asking Questions (But Everyone Wants To Know)"
- "Oh! Carol"
- "One Day of Your Life"
- "Our Last Song Together"
- "Passing Time"
- "Poor Little Puppet"
- "Puppet Man"
- "Put Yourself in My Place"
- "Rainy Day Bells"
- "She'll Never Be You"
- "Sing Me"
- "Stairway to Heaven"
- "Standing in The Ruins (Of Our Old Love Affair)"
- "Stranger in The World"
- "Stupid Cupid"
- "The Diary"
- "The Doll House Is Empty"
- "The Hungry Years"
- "The Other Side of Me"
- "Two Less Lonely People in The World"
- "Venus in Blue Jeans"
- "(Wait Till You See) My Gidget"
- "Walking in the Footsteps of a Fool"
- "When the Boys Meet the Girls"
- "When Somebody Loves You"
- "Where the Boys Are"
- "Who Needs Forever"
- "You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine"
- "You Mean Everything to Me"
- "You Never Done It Like That"
- "Your Used to Be"
"After Howie's mother Ella had seen me, he came ringing my doorbell. I was playing Chopin, and he said, My mother heard you play and thought we could write a song together". - Neil Sedaka, in Goldmine magazine, recalling this event.4
- Berger, Joseph. "Vintage Pop Star With the Soul of a Bar Mitzvah Boy", The New York Times, May 24, 2004. Accessed September 23, 2009. "Several years before enrolling in Juilliard, he had been introduced to a neighbor with a touch of the poet, Howard Greenfield, and they became a songwriting team for the next 20 years."
- Staff. "HOWARD GREENFIELD", The New York Times, March 14, 1986. Accessed September 23, 2009. "Mr. Greenfield was born in New York City on March 15, 1936, and began his songwriting career with Neil Sedaka, a classmate at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn."
- Emerson, Ken (2005) Always Magic In The Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, Viking, New York, ISBN 0-670-03456-8, p. 70.
- History of Rock website - accessed December 2107
- Emerson, p. 71.
- Emerson, p. 72.
- Emerson, p. 104.
- Allmusic biography notes - accessed December 2007
- Emerson, p. 108.
- Emerson, p. 109.
- Emerson, p. 111, 188.
- Emerson, p. 111.
- Emerson, p. 188.
- Emerson, p. 107.
- Emerson, p. 107, 188.
- Emerson, p. 264.