Dennis Greene, an original member of the cover band Sha Na Na, died from esophageal cancer in a Dayton, Ohio hospital on Sept. 5. He was 66.
Greene was one of the founders of Sha Na Na, a group formed in 1969 that performed doo-wop music from the 1950s. The band was originally a part of Columbia University a cappella group the Kingsman, but Greene and a few others branched off and changed their name.
Sha Na Na, which was named after the syllables sung by the Silhouettes in the 1967 song “Get a Job,” gained popularity after performing at the 1969 Woodstock festival right before Jimi Hendrix. The group briefly appeared in a Woodstock documentary, which is said to have helped launch the 1950s nostalgia crazy that included the Broadway musical Grease and the television show “Happy Days.”
Their influence earned them a spot in the film adaptation of Grease playing Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. Sha Na Na also had a variety show from 1977 to 1981 in which they sang hit songs from the 1950s and 1960s and performed comedy skits.
Greene left the group in 1984 to continue his education. He received his master’s degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale.
“We were successful for 15 years, but once you realize you’ve had a good run, you have to make the transition to something with potential for longevity,” he once said of his departure from the group.
Later, Greene became a Columbia Pictures executive and a law professor, teaching at Florida A&M, the University of Oregon and the University of Dayton. He remained at the latter school until his death.
“Dr. Greene was a beloved and highly respected member of the campus community and our prayers go out to his family, friends, colleagues and students,” the University of Dayton said in a statement, according to Rolling Stone.
His memorial service will be open to the public and will take place at Immaculate Conception Monastery Church in Jamaica Estates, New York on Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. Greene’s family is accepting donations for the Dennis Greene Memorial Fund.