Bob Crewe, a singer, songwriter and producer who helped write “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and other top-10 hits for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the 1960s as well as the risque pop-disco favorite “Lady Marmalade,” died Sept. 11 in Scarborough, Maine. He was 83.
The cause was complications from a fall, said his brother Daniel Crewe. A longtime Los Angeles resident, Bob Crewe moved to Maine about four years ago.
Mr. Crewe, a 1995 inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, entered the music business in the 1950s initially as a singer. With his blonde teen idol looks and buoyant voice, Mr. Crewe enjoyed a modicum of success with a jazzy, Bobby Darin-esque version of “The Whiffenpoof Song” in 1961.
He would become far better known for his work as a writer and producer, molding groups that became the Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. He ventured into movie work, co-writing and performing the music to the 1968 science-fiction film “Barbarella” starring Jane Fonda.
In 2005, Mr. Crewe was featured as a character in the Tony Award-winning musical and commercial juggernaut “Jersey Boys,” about the origins of the Four Seasons. He was portrayed as a creative whirlwind who seldom made major artistic or business decisions without consulting his astrologer.
His association with the Four Seasons began in 1960 when the Jersey-born Crewe was scouting for a backup band to perform on his demos and singles. He hired a group called the Four Lovers, which included Valli and keyboardist Bob Gaudio.
The vocal group was soon rechristened the Four Seasons. “We were auditioning at a nightclub in a bowling alley” in Union, N.J., Valli once said. “I looked up at the sign and said, ‘What a great name for a group — the Four Seasons.’ ”
Mr. Crewe saw vast potential, particularly in the piercing falsetto of its lead singer, Valli. With Gaudio — who alone wrote the No. 1 hit “Sherry” -- Mr. Crewe collaborated on dozens of songs that kept the Four Seasons at the top of the pop charts during the 1960s, including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” “Ronnie,” “Save It for Me,” “Silence Is Golden” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”
In 1967, Mr. Crewe produced and co-wrote with Gaudio “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which became a hit single for Valli. With Kenny Nolan, Mr. Crewe wrote “My Eyes Adored You,” which became a No. 1 hit for Valli in 1974, only to be quickly knocked from that spot with the Crewe-Nolan composition “Lady Marmalade.” The latter song, popularized by Patti LaBelle with the group Labelle, was best remembered for its racy chorus of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”, roughly meaning “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?”
“Lady Marmalade” enjoyed renewed attention when it was sung by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa and Pink on the soundtrack of the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie musical “Moulin Rouge!” and became a Grammy-winning No. 1 hit.
Stanley Robert Crewe was born Nov. 12, 1930, in Newark and grew up in Belleville, N.J., where his parents ran a small grocery. Mr. Crewe immersed himself in classical and big-band music from a young age and, though not classically trained as musician, he learned song structure by staging theater productions at school.
He attended the Parsons School of Design in New York City for a year, with an ambition to work as an architect, but he left to concentrate on a music career. He supplemented his income as a model and interior decorator; years later, he lived in a three-story penthouse on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue that he festooned with mirrored ceilings, murals and wood paneling from the Indonesian pagoda at the 1964 World’s Fair, and kangaroo-skin bedspreads.
Early on, he teamed with pianist Frank Slay Jr. and enjoyed modest success as a writing and producing duo responsible for the doo-wop hit “Silhouettes” (1957) for The Rays, followed by “Lah Dee Dah” for singers Billy Ford and Lillie Bryant (known professionally as “Billy and Lillie”), and “Tallahassee Lassie” for the raucous pop singer Freddy Cannon.
The Cannon song was an important transition for Mr. Crewe, who applied its drum-centric stomping beat to many of the songs that would help ground and define the Four Seasons’ repertoire. He also enjoyed experimenting with the echo and background noises at his disposal in the producers’ booth.
“Sometimes we distort sounds to confuse people,” he once told Time. “I like nothing better than to have someone ask, ‘What is that?’ ”
Throughout the 1960s, Mr. Crewe remained an active scout for new talent. He produced and co-wrote the hit “Navy Blue” for Diane Renay and “I Won’t Tell” for Tracey Dey and “California Nights” for Lesley Gore.
He also produced the ballad “Jean” for the plaintive-voiced singer Oliver; the song, written by Rod McKuen, was further popularized as the theme to the 1969 film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”
Mr. Crewe helped turn a Detroit band named Billy Lee & the Rivieras into Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and produced their 1966 hit medley of “Devil with a Blue Dress On” and “Good Golly Miss Molly,” among other songs.
Mr. Crewe’s own band, the Bob Crewe Generation, had an instrumental easy-listening hit in 1967 with “Music to Watch Girls By,” a song written by Sidney Ramin.
With “Barbarella” collaborator Charles Fox, Mr. Crewe wrote the 1969 hit “Eternity” for Vikki Carr. He later reteamed with Gaudio and a new writer, Jerry Corbetta, for “You’re Looking Like Love to Me,” which was recorded in 1983 by Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson.
Around that time, Mr. Crewe left the music industry and became a painter.
Daniel Crewe, who had long been involved in his brother’s music production businesses, is his only immediate survivor.
They formed the Bob Crewe Foundation in 2009 to fund fellowships, scholarships, training and mentorships for aspiring artists and musicians. Bob Crewe, who was gay, also wanted the foundation to fund AIDS research and support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.