Ritchie Cordell

Songwriter and producer of bubblegum pop
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The Independent Online

Richard Joel Rosenblatt (Ritchie Cordell), songwriter, producer and singer: born New York 10 March 1943; married Helaina Bruno; died New York 13 April 2004.

In November 1987, the American songwriter and producer Ritchie Cordell saw one of his compositions, "Mony Mony", top the US charts when it was covered by the British singer Billy Idol. The single replaced the teen sensation Tiffany's take on "I Think We're Alone Now", another of Cordell's perennial pop classics, which had been No 1 the previous week. Cordell was the first writer to accomplish this feat since John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

He also penned a succession of bubblegum hits in the late Sixties for the likes of Tommy James and the Shondells ("Mirage", "Getting Together"), Crazy Elephant ("Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' ") and the 1910 Fruitgum Company ("Indian Giver").

Cordell made his mark again in the early Eighties when he co-produced the crunchy US chart-topper "I Love Rock'n'Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts with Kenny Laguna, the band's manager who had previously worked with Cordell as a session-player. Jett's rumbustious take on the Arrows' forgotten glitter stomp made No 4 in the UK in 1982 and charted around the world, while the album I Love Rock'n'Roll went on to sell 10 million copies.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, as a young man Richard Joel Rosenblatt loved to impersonate Elvis Presley in front of the mirror. He graduated to playing the guitar and writing and singing his own songs. In 1961, his mother took him to see Sid Prosen, the song-plugger who had managed the duo Tom and Jerry, a.k.a. Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon. They had scored a US hit with "Hey Schoolgirl" in 1958 but had gone their separate ways. Prosen introduced Rosenblatt to Simon and together they wrote and produced two minor hits, "Tick Tock" and "Pied Piper". Simon's new charge adopted the pseudonym Ritchie Cordell and in 1963 came up with his own composition, "Georgiana".

More interested in songwriting than performing, Cordell became a regular visitor to the Brill Building, on Broadway in New York, where writers like Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill were hard at work trying to come up with the next hit song. Cordell got a job at Roulette Records in 1966; the label had just scored a US No 1 after acquiring the master of "Hanky Panky", a version of a Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich song, which the Michigan garage band Tommy James and the Shondells had recorded three years earlier.

With Ritchie Cordell writing and producing most of their hit material, Tommy James and the Shondells became prime exponents of bubblegum pop. Indeed, the bubbly effect on the intro to "I Think We're Alone Now", as well as the song's innocent lyrics and heady melody, make it the perfect example of a much-maligned genre. The party anthem "Mony Mony", co-written by Cordell, his songwriting partner Bo Gentry, Tommy James and Bobby Bloom, reached No 3 in the US and was a British No 1 in 1968; it was revived by the Stranglers - as Celia and the Mutations - 10 years later and the British girl group Amazulu briefly competed with Billy Idol's version of the track in 1987.

In the late Sixties, Cordell left Roulette to join the Super-K operation of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, composing disposable singles for the one-hit wonders Crazy Elephant and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. He spent the Seventies as a publisher, songwriter and record producer before working with Bow Wow Wow and co-producing four albums with Joan Jett in the Eighties.

Pierre Perrone