"I'm hearing it in sky blue. You're giving me brown." So says a real-life character named Bob Crewe in the play and movie Jersey Boys. He's producing a recording of the song "Trance" by Billy Dixon and the Topics, and he's complaining that the group is just not singing it right. At the end of the scene the singers stomp out in disgust, but over the next decade (the 1960s) they took Crewe's advice more often than not. You see, one of the "Topics" was a little guy named Frankie Valli and under Crewe's tutelage the group achieved megastardom as the Four Seasons.
Crewe, one of the most successful songwriters and producers in pop-music history, died on Thursday at 82 after a long illness. It's a personal loss for me, because I got to know Crewe a bit when I helped produce and write liner notes for a box set of Four Seasons' hits in 2007.