Music Throwback Saturday: Walk Away Renée

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy recorded Walk Away Renée for their 2006 album Adieu False Heart.

LeftBankeThere really WAS a Renée. From 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 two 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.”

LISTEN to Walk Away Renée by
The Left Banke
The Four Tops
Linda Ronstadt & Ann Savoy

Sadly, Michael Brown, the Left Banke’s brilliant baroque-pop leader, died at the age of 65, back in March 2015.

I’m Walkin’, Renee

Officer Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues should not to be confused with the kid on the animated program King of the Hill.

Walk Away Renee was clearly the biggest hit for a New York City band called The Left Banke. The lead singer is named Steve Martin, but it’s not the noted comedian. The song reached #5 on the Billboard charts in 1966, made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame list and is #220 on the Rolling Stone top 500 list. Listen to it HERE.

It was covered by the legendary Motown group The Four Tops, with the great lead singer Levi Stubbs. The recording went to #14 on the pop charts and #15 on the rhythm & blues charts. Listen to it HERE.

When I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, my boss Tom and I were big fans of the then-current cop drama Hill Street Blues. At one point, Officer Bobby Hill (Michael Warren, pictured) – not to be confused with the kid on the animated program King of the Hill – mentioned liking Walk Away Renee, and said that it came out in 1968. We theorized that this was not an error on the part of the writers, but that Bobby listened to the black radio stations in his youth and was familiar only with the Four Tops version, not the original.

Love this parody of the New Titan Titans #1 in MAD magazine #507, but I wonder how many of the MAD readers know the 30-year-old comic cover well enough to truly appreciate the takeoff.

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