|Origin||Brooklyn, New York, US|
|Genres||Pop, country, musical theatre|
Beverly Ross (born 1939) is an American songwriter and musician who co-wrote several successful pop songs in the 1950s and 1960s, including "Dim, Dim The Lights", "Lollipop" — which she also recorded, as one half of Ronald & Ruby — "The Girl of My Best Friend", "Remember Then", and "Judy's Turn to Cry".
Early writing career
While living in The Bronx as a teenager, she began canvassing writers at the Brill Building with some of her songs. The first to be recorded was "Dim, Dim The Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)", co-written with black songwriter Julius Dixson (or Dixon), which was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954 and became a crossover hit in both the pop chart and R&B chart the following year. The song was the first rock and roll song recorded by a white singer to reach the R&B chart, and was hailed by Alan Freed as "the grand daddy song of rock n’ roll".
In 1958 she and Dixson wrote one of her most lasting songs, "Lollipop". When Dixson explained that he was late for a songwriting session because his daughter had gotten a lollipop stuck in her hair, Ross began writing the song, and later recorded a demo version with Dixson's neighbor, teenager Ronald Gumm (or Gumps). Dixson, who owned the master and had produced the demo, then agreed to let RCA Records release it as by "Ronald and Ruby". The pair's version rose up the chart reaching no.20, but when it was learned that Ronald and Ruby were an inter-racial duo, television appearances that had been previously booked got cancelled. Cover versions by The Chordettes (no.2 in the US) and The Mudlarks (no.2 in the UK) rose higher up the charts, and the song became an international hit.
As a successful young songwriter, Ross was interviewed at the time, and said:
"In this country it is taboo to express sexuality, and our adolescent population is very inhibited. The music brings some outlet to them. They need this. It is a medium in which they can express themselves... You can't sell the kids anything good, they won't buy it. The majority of the big hits are written by the kids and performed by them. The things are so unprofessional and illiterate that publishers are besieged. Everybody thinks he can write now because the standards are so low. The buying public's age is between 12 and 17, and this is what guides the industry."
While working at the Brill Building with Jeff Barry in the late 1950s, she was recruited by Jean Aberbach to work for the publishing company Hill & Range. She co-wrote the song "Dixieland Rock" with Aaron Schroeder, using the pseudonym Rachel Frank. The song was recorded by Elvis Presley for his 1958 movie King Creole and released on the soundtrack album. She also wrote "The Girl of My Best Friend" with Sam Bobrick. The song was first released as the B-side of a single by Charlie Blackwell, before being covered in 1960 by Presley, whose version — first issued on his album Elvis Is Back! — reached no.9 in the UK, and Ral Donner, who reached no.19 in the US. Around the same time, Ross also made recordings under her own name for Columbia Records, including "Stop Laughing At Me" (1958) and "Say Hello" (1959).
At Hill & Range she met aspiring songwriter Phil Spector, and began collaborating with him on songs and demo recordings. They worked together for about six months, and Ross later said: "I was really his only friend, and we got very attached to each other." She later wrote a memoir of the period, I Was the First Woman Phil Spector Killed: An Autobiography In Essays, in which she claims that Spector appropriated a riff she had composed as the basis for his later success, "Spanish Harlem", on which Spector and Jerry Leiber shared co-writing credits.
By 1960 she was — with Carole King — one of the top female pop music songwriters, and was seen as "kind of a queen bee". Her later hits as a songwriter included "Candy Man", co-written with Fred Neil whom she had met at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. The song was recorded by Roy Orbison as the B-side of "Crying" in 1961, and was re-recorded by Mickey Gilley and Charly McClain in 1984 when it reached no.5 on the US country music chart. She also co-wrote "Remember Then" with Tony Powers; the song was first recorded by the Earls in 1962. The following year, "Judy's Turn to Cry", which she co-wrote with Edna Lewis, was recorded by Lesley Gore and became another hit.
After some years away from the music business, she received a BMI award in 1985 for writing "Candy Man", and in 1989 set up home in Nashville. She wrote songs with Archie Jordan, Mark Dreyer, and others, which have been recorded by such artists as Engelbert Humperdinck, Bonnie Raitt, and Shelby Lynne.
From the 1990s, she also worked on writing musical theatre shows, including City of Light, a show about Paris during the Nazi occupation in World War II which she co-wrote with Thom Spahn. The show was given a staged read-through directed by Holly-Anne Ruggiero in New York in 2008.
In April 2013, her memoir I Was the First Woman Phil Spector Killed, described as a "tell all book" in a "Gonzo journalistic style" about life in the Brill Building between 1958 and 1961, was published and was featured at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 604. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Biography by Bruce Eder at Allmusic.com. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Rolling Stone: Song Stories, "Dim, Dim the Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)". Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Rolling Stone: Song Stories, "Lollipop". Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Bob Reisner, "Rock 'N Roll", Village Voice, March 26, 1958.Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Beverly Ross discography at 45cat.com. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Richard Williams, Phil Spector: Out of His Head, Music Sales Group, 2003, p.43
- Mark Ribowsky, He's a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, pp.62-71
- Beverly Ross, I Was The First Woman Phil Spector Killed, Chapter 1, at Beverly Ross website. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Beverly Ross, Candy Man: story behind the song, at Beverly Ross website. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top Country Singles 1944-1993 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 136. ISBN 0-89820-100-4.
- Rolling Stone: Song Stories, "Candy Man". Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Deborah Evans Price, "Brill Building's Ross Turns Her Hand To Theater Writing", Billboard, March 9, 2002, p.40
- Mark Small, Berklee Today: Breaking Out In Nashville. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- Andrew Gans, City of Light Readings,.., Playbill.com, June 20, 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2013
- "Iconic "Lollipop" Songwriter To Be Featured at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...", PRWeb.com, April 5, 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013