Dennis Greene, a Singer With Sha Na Na, Dies at 66
Dennis Greene, a founding member of Sha Na Na, a band that became famous in the 1970s for its simultaneously nostalgic and comedic approach to the rock ’n’ roll of the 1950s, died on Saturday at a hospital near his home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 66.
His death was confirmed by his brother Gerald, who did not specify a cause.
Sha Na Na, which started as an a cappella group while Mr. Greene was an undergraduate at Columbia University, drew a large following after playing at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Mr. Greene often performed wearing a gold lamé suit and sang lead on a number of the group’s songs.
The group released a handful of albums in the 1970s and had a syndicated television variety show, also called “Sha Na Na,” for several years starting in 1977. In 1978, Sha Na Na, with Mr. Greene singing lead, performed the 1958 Little Anthony and the Imperials hit “Tears on My Pillow” in the film version of the Broadway musical “Grease,” which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Mr. Greene left Sha Na Na after 15 years to get a master’s degree at Harvard and a law degree at Yale. He told an interviewer in 1998 that he did not regret the decision.
“Being a rock star was never something that was particularly interesting to me,” he said. “It was a great job. I loved the singing part. The byproducts, unfortunately, were exhausting travel and the ongoing-forever politics of being in a business controlled by young adults.”
Frederick Dennis Greene was born in Manhattan on Jan. 11, 1949, and grew up in the Bronx. He attended a Roman Catholic high school before receiving a scholarship to the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and from there went to Columbia, where he joined a group called the Columbia Kingsmen. Since there was already a band called the Kingsmen (known for their hit version of “Louie Louie”) they changed their name to Sha Na Na, inspired by nonsense syllables in the Silhouettes’ 1958 hit “Get a Job.”
Mr. Greene went on to become a vice president of Columbia Pictures and then a law professor, most recently at the University of Dayton.
Sha Na Na still performs, though most of the original members have left the group.
Besides his brother Gerald, Mr. Greene is survived by another brother, Michael.
Mr. Greene told The Columbus Dispatch in 2001 that he was still recognized for his years with Sha Na Na.
“I still am asked for autographs,” he said, “but these days it seems it’s always for their mother.”
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