There really WAS a Renée. From the Wikipedia: The song Walk Away Renée was “written by the group’s then 16-year-old keyboard player Michael Brown (real name Michael Lookofsky), Tony Sansone and Bob Calilli… The song is one of a number Brown wrote about Renée Fladen-Kamm, then-girlfriend of The Left Banke’s bassist Tom Finn and object of Brown’s affection.”
The Left Banke version, which got up to #5 in the US in 1966, was their biggest hit. Pretty Ballerina, also about Renée, went to #15 US in early 1967.
Moreover, as Dustbury noted:
“I knew that Michael Brown’s unrequited love was a real person… but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.
“It’s at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn,” part of New York City.
The Four Tops recorded a version for their 1967 album Reach Out. The single “reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the UK Singles Chart in 1968.” Of course, they had several other hits.
For you US television fans, a bit of Hill Street Blues trivia. The cop Bobby Hill (Michael Warren) mentions loving the song Walk Away Renée, which he said came out in 1968. Obviously, as a kid, he was listening to a soul station and did not hear the Left Banke version in 1966, only the Four Tops version a couple years later.
I also own the version by Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy for their 2006 album Adieu False Heart, Linda’s last album of new material. “Their spare reading of the [song] brings the lyric’s ache into full relief.”
Sadly, Michael Brown, the Left Banke’s brilliant baroque-pop leader, died at the age of 65, back in March 2015.