By Charlie Franklin, Contributing Music, Movie, and TV Critic for SatelliteWerx.com
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” is a 1972 hit song written by Elliot Lurie and recorded by his band The Looking Glass. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for a week and also hit #1 on the Cashbox 100.
Here’s The Looking Glass Performing ‘Brandy’
The band was started by Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter Elliot Lurie, Peter Sweval on bass, and keyboardist Larry Gonsky while students at New Jersey’s Rutgers University in New Brunswick. In its early days, The Looking Glass played frat parties as well local clubs including small gigs like one in the basement of the Community Presbyterian Church on Glenville Road near Edison High School with your humble blog-post writer in attendance. After graduation from Rutgers, the group reformed and sufficiently impressed Columbia Records president Clive Davis, who signed them to the Epic Records. Ultimately, they scored big with the memorable song called “Brandy” written by Elliot Lurie.
Elliot Lurie not only wrote the song but also sings lead vocals on Brandy. He moved to Los Angeles in 1984, and in 1985, became head of the music department at 20th Century Fox. Lurie produced the soundtrack album for the John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis 1985 film Perfect and has worked as music supervisor on numerous hit movies films including Alien 3 (1992), A Night at the Roxbury (1998), Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), I Spy (2002) and Spanglish (2004).
Legend has it that the lyrics tell the story of Brandy, a barmaid in a port town who falls in love with a sailor who gives her a locket that bears his name. In the end, Brandy is left in love with “a man who’s not around.” Local legend has it that the song Brandy was about a real-life woman named Mary Ellis (1750–1828), who was a reputed spinster in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the 1700’s.
Folklore tells the story of Mary who was seduced by a sea captain who vowed to return to marry her. But he never returned, and she would come to the spot where her grave now stands each and every day to look for his ship on the Raritan River in New Brunswick.
But the urban legend that the song is about Mary Ellis is not quite correct.
Here’s The Real Story Behind The Song From Songwriter Elliot Laurie
Some New Brunswick area locals may recall that the Mary Ellis grave is in what is now a parking lot in a large movie theater complex on Route 1 in New Brunswick. Mary’s family home and property eventually became the site of the large Great Eastern Mills discount department store. That store went out of business some years ago and later became the popular Route 1 Flea Market in the mid 1970’s. Eventually the valuable property was sold and a large Loews Movie Theater complex currently occupies the space. The gravesite remains unchanged…
Here’s the Mary Ellis gravesite as it currently looks:
And, here’s the gravesite as it looked many, many years ago…