Karen Ocamb of FrontiersLA.com reports that Four Seasons music legend Bob Crewe died Thursday at age 82.
Crewe, a gay man, ironically wrote the big ‘60s hit, Music to Watch Girls By.
Two years ago, I interviewed actor Jonathan Hadley, who toured for years playing Crewe in the national company of Jersey Boys.
Here’s my article about Crewe published Jan. 11, 2012:
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'Jersey Boys' pals sing praises of unsung Fifth Season, songwriter-producer-performer Bob Crewe
Known in the music business as “the Fifth Season,” songwriter-producer-performer Bob Crewe is the creative talent behind Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Lesley Gore and a legion of ‘60s American pop stars.
“He was responsible for that signature Four Seasons sound. He’s an unsung hero,” says actor Jonathan Hadley, who for four years has portrayed Crewe in the touring company of Broadway’s Jersey Boys, now at the Broward Center for Performing Arts.
Crewe produced the Four Seasons’ 1962 breakthrough hit Sherry, written by Bob Gaudio, and co-wrote (with Gaudio) Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Dolland Walk Like a Man. All were No. 1 hits that catapulted the Seasons — Valli, Gaudio,Tommy DeVitoand Nick Massi — into superstardom.
“[Crewe’s] an artist. He’s got the best ears in the business,” says Rick Elice, who in the early 2000s co-wrote Jersey Boys with Oscar-winner Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall).
Elice, whose play Peter and the Starcatcher (based on the Peter Panprequel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) is being readied for a spring opening on Broadway, says it was Crewe’s concept to overdub Valli’s falsetto on early Four Seasons recordings.
“He’s very hip to new producing techniques,” Elice says.
In his prime, Crewe also produced music for Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin and Patti LaBelle (he co-wrote Labelle’s Lady Marmalade). In 1967, he scored three big successes: co-writing Valli’s No. 1 Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You: scoring Jane Fonda’s film Barbarella; and performing the No. 2 instrumental Music to Watch Girls By.
Now 80, Crewe suffers from dementia and lives in a Los Angeles nursing center, according to a recent blog post by his brother, Dan, president ofThe Bob Crewe Foundation for aspiring artists, AIDS research and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
In the early days, Crewe quietly identified as bisexual, Hadley says.
“We knew something was different about this guy but, back then, we thought Liberace was just theatrical,” says Hadley, 47, who is gay.
Right from the start, Jersey Boys is up front about Crewe. “My first line in the show is, ‘Watch your mouth Toto, we’re not in Newark anymore,’ Hadley says. “Right away, the audience says ‘Gay.’”
Elice says he and Brickman consulted with Crewe, Valli and Gaudio while writing Jersey Boys.
Crewe believed that in the early days, no one knew his sexual orientation. Wrong, according to Valli and Gaudio, who told Elice that “if you looked up gay in the dictionary, you’d see Bob.”
“It just didn’t matter to them. You’d think they’d be the kind of guys that it would be a problem. But they didn’t give a s--- if he was gay, straight or whatever,” says Elice, whose partner, actor Roger Rees, recently starred on Broadway in The Addams Family — book by Elice and Brickman.
Elice, 55, says Crewe made only one request of the Jersey Boys script: “That he not be represented as a screaming queen.”
“He’s not a screaming queen,” Elice says. “And Jonathan doesn’t play him that way.”