“Walk Away Renée” is a song written by Michael Brown, Bob Calilli, and Tony Sansone for the band the Left Banke, released as a single in July 1966. Steve Martin Caro is featured on lead vocals. After its initial release, it spent 13 weeks on the U.S. charts, with a top spot of number 5.
The song features an oboe solo played during the instrumental bridge of the middle portion of the song. Brown got the idea from the flute solo from the Mamas & the Papas song “California Dreamin'” which had been recorded in November 1965 but wasn’t a hit and in heavy rotation until early 1966. The arrangement also includes a lush string orchestration, a jangling harpsichord part, and a descending chromatic bass melody. Its production was credited to World United Productions, Inc., but the session was produced by Brown’s father, jazz and classical violinist Harry Lookofsky, who also led the string players.[not verified in body]
Rolling Stone placed “Walk Away Renée” at number 220 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song returned to nationwide charts with cover versions by The Four Tops (1967) and Rick Price (1993).
The song is one of a number Brown wrote about Renée Fladen-Kamm, the then-girlfriend of The Left Banke’s bassist Tom Finn and object of Brown’s affection. She was associated with the band for a few weeks, and was described as a free-spirited and tall blonde. The song was written one month after Brown met her. “Walk Away Renee” was one of a series of love songs the infatuated Brown wrote after meeting his newfound muse. Other songs written about her include the band’s second hit “Pretty Ballerina” and “She May Call You Up Tonight”. After decades of obscurity, she was identified in 2001 as a noted singer, vocal teacher and artist on the West Coast.
Brown says of his unrequited love for Renée:
“I was just sort of mythologically in love, if you know what I mean, without having evidence in fact or in deed…But I was as close as anybody could be to the real thing”
Fladen-Kamm was looking on during the recording of the song, and her presence nearly prevented its completion. In an interview, Brown stated:
“My hands were shaking when I tried to play, because she was right there in the control room,” he says. “There was no way I could do it with her around, so I came back and did it later.”
However, co-author Tony Sansone has given a different version of the origin of the song and contends that he is the primary author. Sansone has stated in interviews that he wrote the lyrics for the song, and that he randomly chose the name Renee because the Beatles used the name Michelle in their hit song of the same name, and so he did likewise, choosing the French name Renee as the female object for the song.