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Eddie Rabbitt

Background information
Birth name Edward Thomas Rabbitt
Born November 27, 1941(1941-11-27)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died May 7, 1998 (aged 56)
Nashville, Tennessee
Genres Country, Countrypolitan, country pop
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1964–1998
Labels Elektra, Liberty, RCA, Capitol, Warner Bros., Columbia, Intersound
Associated acts Even Stevens, David Malloy, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Juice Newton

Edward Thomas "Eddie" Rabbitt (November 27, 1941 – May 7, 1998) was an American country music singer-songwriter who enjoyed much pop success at the height of his career in the 1970s and 80s with 20 #1 country hits including "Drivin' My Life Away" and "I Love a Rainy Night," which also topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.

After growing up in New Jersey, Rabbitt moved to Nashville and began his vocation in the music industry. He started as a songwriter in the late 1960s, springboarding to a recording career after penning such hits as "Kentucky Rain" for Elvis Presley in 1970 and "Pure Love" for Ronnie Milsap in 1974. Later in the 1970s, Rabbitt helped to develop the crossover-influenced sound of country music prevalent in the 1980s with such hits as "Suspicions" and "Every Which Way but Loose." His duets "Friends and Lovers" and "You and I", with Juice Newton and Crystal Gayle respectively, later served as the themes for the soap operas Days of Our Lives and All My Children.

Following the death of his infant son in 1985, Rabbitt put his career on a hiatus and produced no more cross-over material. However, he returned to music in the late 1980s with a string of country hits including a cover of "The Wanderer" and his self-penned "On Second Thought." Rabbitt's career was cut short when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997. Although he continued to record, Rabbitt died from the disease the following year.

Contents

Early life

Rabbitt was born to Irish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York in 1941 and was raised in the nearby community of East Orange, New Jersey.[1] His father was an oil refinery refrigeration worker who was skilled in fiddle and accordion play and often entertained local New York City dance halls. By age twelve, Rabbitt was proficient in guitar. He was taught to play the instrument by his scoutmaster, Tom Scwickrath, who gave the young musician a few lessons.[2] Later in his childhood, Rabbitt became a self-proclaimed "walking encyclopedia of country music". After his parents divorced, he decided to drop out of school at age sixteen. His mom, Mae, explained this action in a People Magazine interview stating that Rabbitt "was never one for school [because] his head was too full of music." He would later earn his high school diploma after taking courses at night school.[3]

Career

Early career

Rabbitt was employed as a mental hospital attendant in the late 1950s but like his father, he would fulfill his desire for music by performing at the Six Steps Down club in his home town. He would go on to win a talent contest and was given an hour of Saturday night radio show time to broadcast a live performance from a bar in Paterson.[4] In 1964, he signed his first record deal with 20th Century Records and released the singles, "Next to the Note" and "Six Nights and Seven Days". Four years later, with $1,000.00 to his name, Rabbitt set off for Nashville where he began his career as a songwriter.[5] During his first night in the town, Rabbitt wrote "Working My Way Up to the Bottom", which was recorded by Roy Drusky in 1968.[6] To makes ends meet, Rabbitt was also temporarily employed as a truck driver, soda jerk and fruit picker while stationed in Nashville.[7] He was ultimately hired as a staff writer for the Hill & Range Publishing Company and received a salary of $37.50 a week.[8] As a young songwriter, Rabbitt would hang out with other aspiring writers at a bar named "Wally's Clubhouse" in Nashville, stating that he and the other patrons had "no place else to go."[9]

Rabbitt flirted with early success as a songwriter in 1969, when Elvis Presley recorded his song "Kentucky Rain". The song went gold and cast Rabbitt as one of Nashville's leading young songwriters. While eating Cap'n Crunch,[10] he penned his first number one hit, "Pure Love" for Ronnie Milsap in 1974, which led to a contract offer from Elektra Records.[11]

Rabbitt signed with Elektra Records in 1975. His first single under the label, "You Get To Me" made the Top 40 that year, and two songs in 1975, "Forgive And Forget" and "I Should Have Married You" nearly made the Top 10. These three songs along with a recording of "Pure Love" were included on Rabbitt's self-named debut album in 1975. A year afterwards saw the release of the critically-acclaimed Rocky Mountain Music, which handed Rabbitt his first #1 Country hit with the track "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)". The following year marked the release of Rabbitt's third album, Rabbitt, which made the Top 5 on country album charts.[12] Later in the year, he was named "Top New Male Vocalist of the Year" by the Academy of Country Music.[11] By 1977, Rabbitt had gained a reputation around Nashville, and was being compared by critics to singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson.[10]

Crossover success

Rabbitt toured with and opened for crossover star Kenny Rogers when he was still relatively obscure, but soon Rabbitt would himself breakthrough on other charts.[13] Following the release of Variations in 1978, which included two more number one hits, Rabbitt released his first compilation album, The Best of Eddie Rabbitt. The album produced Rabbitt's first cross-over single of his career, "Every Which Way But Loose", which topped country charts and reached the top 30 on both the Billboard 100 and Adult Contemporary, and was featured in a 1978 movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood. The song also broke the record for highest chart debut, entering at #18. Rabbitt held this record until it was shared with Garth Brooks following the debut of his 2005 single "Good Ride Cowboy." It was ultimately broken in 2006 upon the #17 chart entrance of Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime."[14] Rabbitt's next single, the R&B flavored "Suspicions" from his 1979 album Loveline, was an even greater crossover success, again reaching number one on country charts and the Top 15 on the Billboard 100 and Adult Contemporary.[15] The crossover success all came as a surprise to Rabbitt who stated "I came to Nashville with nothing in mind about pop music. I was country and it just so happened that the kind of music I was making crossed over to the pop charts."[11] He was given his own television special on NBC on July 10, 1980, and included appearances by such performers as Emmylou Harris and Jerry Lee Lewis.[16] At this point in his career, Rabbitt had drawn comparisons to a "young Elvis Presley."[17]

A ticket stub to an Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle joint performance in 1981

Rabbitt's next album Horizon, which reached platinum status, preceded the release of the biggest cross-over hits of his career including "I Love a Rainy Night" and "Drivin' My Life Away."[12] Both songs were written by Rabbitt, and came about from events that happened largely in the 1960s. The latter focused on the truck-driving culture, which Rabbitt once belonged to, and was inspired by Bob Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" from his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home.[18] The former was developed from a song fragment happened upon by Rabbitt that he had written in the 1960s during a thunderstorm.[19] His popularity was so strong at this point that he was offered a variety television show of his own, which he went on to respectfully decline stating "It's not worth the gamble."[20]

The release of Step By Step in 1981 continued Rabbitt's cross-over success as all three singles reached the top 10 on both country and adult contemporary charts. The title track became Rabbitt's third straight single to reach the top 5 on country, adult contemporary and the Billboard 100 charts. The album ultimately reached gold status, Rabbitt's final album to do so. In 1982, he teamed up with another Country/Pop crossover star, Crystal Gayle, to record the duet "You and I" from the album Radio Romance. The duet eventually became a large pop smash peaking at 5 and 3 respectively on the Billboard 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. The song's popularity reached the point where it was used as the theme to the soap opera All My Children.[18] The single cut "You Put the Beat in My Heart" from Rabbitt's second Greatest Hits compilation in 1983, was the final crossover hit for the artist, reaching number 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[12]

Late career

As the 1980s progressed, Rabbitt moved further from crossover-styled music. His 1984 album The Best Year of My Life produced one #1 country hit and three more top 10 hits, but none of these met any crossover success. The illness and subsequent death of his son put his career on hold following the release of Rabbitt Trax in 1985, which included the #1 "Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)", a duet with country-pop star Juice Newton.[11] Like "You and I," the song was used as the theme for a soap opera, this time for Days of Our Lives.[18]

Rabbitt would return from his hiatus in 1988 with the release of I Wanna Dance With You, which despite somewhat negative reviews[21] cut two #1s, including a cover of Dion's "The Wanderer," and the album's title track. Two years later saw the release of Rabbitt's positively reviewed album Jersey Boy and its hit single "On Second Thought", which held as Rabbitt's final #1 of his career in 1990. The album also included "American Boy", a patriotic tune popular during the Gulf War[22] and later used in the campaign of presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996.[11] Rabbitt released Ten Rounds in 1991, which produced the final charting single of his career, "Hang Up the Phone." Following the release, he left Capitol Records to tour with his band "Hare Trigger."[11]

In 1997, Rabbitt signed with Intersound Records but was soon after diagnosed with lung cancer. Following a round of chemotherapy, he released the album Beatin' the Odds. The next year, he released his final studio album, Songs from Rabbittland, which he described as "17 songs, jokes, and stories I wrote for my kids as they were growing up."[11]

Death

On May 7, 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee, Eddie Rabbitt died from lung cancer at the age of 56. He had struggled with the disease since being diagnosed in March 1997, and had undergone radiation treatment, as well as surgery to remove an infected part of his lung.[23] His body was interred at the Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, following a private burial on May 8.[24] No media outlet reported the death until after the burial, on account of the family's request. The news of Rabbitt's passing came as a surprise to many in Nashville, including the performer's agent who "had no idea Eddie was terminal" and had "talked to him" often, remarking that Rabbitt "was always upbeat and cheerful," in the final months of his life.[25] Although during his career he was widely believed to have been born in 1944 (this year can still be found in older publications and texts[26]), it was revealed at the time of his death that he was, in fact, 56 years old, putting his year of birth in 1941.

Musical styles

Rabbitt used innovative techniques to tie Country themes with light rhythm and blues influenced tempos. His songs would often make use of echo, as Rabbitt routinely sang his own background vocals.[27] In a process called the "Eddie Rabbitt Chorale," the performer would makeup for what Billboard Magazine described as a "somewhat thin and reedy voice" by recording songs in three-part harmonies.[3] His music had been compared to rockabilly, particularly the album Horizon, which was noted as having an Elvis-like sound. Rabbitt remarked that he liked "a lot of the old Memphis sounds that came out of Sun Records" during the 1950s, and that he "wanted to catch the magic of a live band."[28] He stated that such wide-ranging artists as Bob Dylan, Elton John, Steely Dan, Elvis and Willie Nelson influenced his works.[3] When putting together an album, Rabbitt stated that tried to make sure he put in "ten potential singles...no fillers, no junk." He made this proclamation after remembering listening to albums as a child and hearing "two hits and a bunch of garbage."[8]

Rabbitt believed that Country music was "Irish music" and that "the minor chords in [his] music g[a]ve it that mystical feel."[29] Although, he did not strive to produce pop music, his songs helped influence the direction of country music, leading to the Urban Cowboy era during the 1980s.[11] According to critic Harry Sumrall of the San Jose Mercury News, Rabbitt was "like a hot corn dog: nothing fancy, nothing frilly. You know what you're getting and you like it...never a country purist, Rabbitt nonetheless makes music that is plain and simple, with all of the virtues that make good country good [His songs] might be brisk, but they are also warm and familiar, like the breeze that wafts in over the fried artichokes."[30]

During the early 1990s, Rabbitt voiced criticism of hip hop music, particularly rap, which he believed was sending a negative message to youths. He stated that the music was "inciting a generation" and that it had helped to contribute to the high rates of teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts and rapes during this period.[31]

Personal life

When Rabbitt arrived in Nashville during the late 1960s, he was given a pet chicken by a friend. Rabbitt noted that he had "an affinity for animals" and decided to keep the bird around but ultimately gave it away to a farmer.[6] During his Nashville days in the early 1970s, Rabbitt owned a pet monkey named Jojo. Prior to his Rocky Mountain Music tour, the monkey bit Rabbitt, leaving his right arm in bandages.[32]

Rabbitt was wed in 1976 to Janine[26] Girardi[18] whom he described as "a little thing about 5 foot tall, with long, black beautiful hair, and [a] real pretty face."[29] He had previously written the songs "Pure Love" and "Sweet Janine" for her.[19] They had three children, the first of whom is named Demelza.[26] His second, a son named Timmy was diagnosed with biliary atresia upon birth. The condition required a liver transplant for survival and the child was slated to undergo one in 1985 but the attempt failed and he died. Rabbitt temporarily put his career on hiatus[11] stating that "I didn’t want to be out of the music business, but where I was was more important."[26] Rabbit's third child, Tommy was born in 1986.[19]

Rabbitt felt it was his responsibility as an entertainer "to be [a] good role model" and was an advocate for many charitable organizations including the Special Olympics, Easter Seals, and the American Council on Transplantation[11], of which he served as the honorary chairman. He also worked as a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and United Cerebral Palsy.[1] Rabbitt was a registered Republican and "with pleasure" gave permission to Senator Bob Dole to use his song "American Boy" during Dole's presidential campaign in 1996.[33]

Awards

Year Awards Award[11]
1977 Academy of Country Music Awards Top New Male Vocalist
1979 Music City News Country Songwriter of the Year
1979 BMI Robert J. Burton Award[3] ("Suspicions")
1980 BMI Song of the Year ("Suspicions")
1981 American Music Award Best Pop Male Vocalist
1996 BMI Three Million-Air award ("I Love a Rainy Night")
1996 BMI Two Million-Air award ("Kentucky Rain")
1998 Nashville Songwriters Foundation Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame[34]

Discography

References

  1. ^ a b " Eddie Rabbitt, 56, Whose Songs Zigzagged From Pop to Country", The New York Times, May 9, 1998. Accessed November 3, 2007.
  2. ^ Blouch, Judd. "Rabbitt hops into Eisenhower Saturday," Penn State University, 1981-09-23.
  3. ^ a b c d Flippo, Chet. "Country Vet Rabbitt Dies," Billboard Magazine, 1989-05-23
  4. ^ Landon, Grelun and Irwin and Lyndon Stambler. Country Music Encyclopedia. MacMillan, 2000.
  5. ^ Wetmore, Elaine. "Rabbitt's success long awaited," Penn State University, 1981-09-28.
  6. ^ a b "Eddie Rabbitt Made Breaks on His Own," The Spokesman-Review, 1977-02-05.
  7. ^ "A WEEK OF MUSIC FOR ALL EARS," Palm Beach Post, 1990-02-23.
  8. ^ a b Gardner, Tom. "Eddie Rabbitt: Brooklyn boy makes his voice heard in Nashville," Wilmington Morning Star, 1979-08-01.
  9. ^ Hurst, Jack. "Eddie Rabbitt's hit tells of unknown mountains," Wilmington Morning Star, 1978-07-22.
  10. ^ a b Legro, Ron. "Two Country Charmers," Milwaukee Sentinel, 1977-08-12.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Schwalboski, Ann. Eddie Rabbitt Biography musicianguide.com
  12. ^ a b c Eddie Rabbitt Singles, LP Discography.
  13. ^ Sutton, Lorna. "Rogers provides memorable show," The Spokesman-Review, 1978-07-20.
  14. ^ Keith Urban Single Makes Chart History, CMT, 2006-08-21.
  15. ^ Roland, Tom. Loveline, allmusic.com.
  16. ^ "Eddie Rabbitt Special," Kingman Daily Miner, 1980-07-04.
  17. ^ Dudek, Duane. "Miss Newton and Rabbitt wow all ages," Milwaukee Sentinel, 1981-06-29.
  18. ^ a b c d Wadey, Paul.Obituary: Eddie Rabbitt, The Independent, 1998-05-19.
  19. ^ a b c Eddie Rabbitt Biography, Oldies.com.
  20. ^ Nash, Alanna. The Urban Cowboy, Entertainment Weekly.
  21. ^ "I Wanna Dance With You", allmusic.com.
  22. ^ Dillon, Charlotte. "Jersey Boy" allmusic.com.
  23. ^ "Singer-Songwriter Eddie Rabbitt Dies at 53", The Washington Post, 1998-05-09.
  24. ^ Eddie Rabbitt's grave - Calvary Cemetery, Nashville, TN[1]
  25. ^ Waddell, Ray. Country Music Performer Eddie Rabbitt Dies, Amusement Business, 1998-05-18.
  26. ^ a b c d Johnson, Anne. Rabbitt, Eddie Contemporary Musicians, 1991.
  27. ^ Eddie Rabbitt #1 Hits, Rhino, 2009-04-02.
  28. ^ Wetmore, Elaine. Daily Collegian, 1981-09-28.
  29. ^ a b Allis, Tim and Bell, Bonnie. Still Grieving After the Death of His Young Son, Eddie Rabbitt Finds Solace in Country Music, People Magazine, 1989-04-17.
  30. ^ "Rabbitt, Eddie." Contemporary Musicians, 1991.
  31. ^ Susman, Lori. "Riverside Resort presents Eddie Rabbitt in concert", Kingman Daily Miner, 1993-04-23.
  32. ^ Beck, Marilyn. "Dickinson-Bacharach split confuses friends," St. Petersburg Times, 1976-09-20.
  33. ^ "INDECISION '96", The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1996-10-15.
  34. ^ Flippo, Chet. SESAC, Hall of Fame honor songwriters, Billboard Magazine, 1998-10-03.

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