Eddie Rabbitt

Russ: In the late 1970s and early 1980s the trend in Country music was to move on from the “twang” to other direction. They called it “crossover”, with professional musicians and producers only too keen to distance themselves from Country’s roots. It was the era of the Urban Cowboy.

One of the leaders of that trend was Eddie Rabbitt, who started his musical career as a songwriter in the late 1960s.

My favourite 1979 Pop song by him is called “Suspicions”.

 

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2855340254_06c3f88477Eddie Rabbitt

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Eddie’s long-time producer David Malloy later recalled, “What I tried to do, basically, was make Pop records that could be acceptable to Country radio.” The fruits of this approach were a string of chart-toppers including “Drivin’ My Life Away” and “I Love a Rainy Night” (both 1980), and “Step By Step” (1981), which became the first country video to appear on MTV.

Videos:

The Wanderer

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Step By Step / 1981

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Drivin’ My Life Away / classic Eddie Rabbitt song performed live in Branson Missouri

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I Love A Rainy Night / Live in Branson Missouri

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 I Can’t Help Myself / video from Pop Goes The Country

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Suspicions

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You And I / duet with Crystal Gayle

Audio:

 

1976 / “Two Dollars In The Jukebox

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1976 / Eddie’s first No 1 as a vocalist / “Drinking My Baby (Off My Mind)

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1979 / “Suspicions” / No.1 Billboard Hot Country Singles, No.13 Billboard Hot 100 / most-performed song of the year

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1979 / “Every Which Way But Loose” / on soundtrack of Clint Eastwood movie

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1982 / “You Can’t Run From Love

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1982 / “Drivin’ My Life Away

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1982 / “I Love a Rainy Night


Edward Thomas Rabbitt was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in New Jersey. His Irish- American father played both the fiddle and accordion. During his childhood Rabbitt became a self-proclaimed “walking encyclopedia of country music”.

Young Eddie got guitar lessons from Bob Scwickrath, his scoutmaster who performed under the name “Texas” Bob Randall, and by the age of 12 Eddie became quite good on guitar.

A high school drop- out, he worked as a trucker, a fruit picker, and in the late 1950s as mental hospital orderly during the day whilst performing in the evening at the Six Steps Down club in Newark, his hometown.

He later won a talent contest and was given an hour of Saturday night radio show-time to broadcast a live performance from a bar in Paterson.

By 1964, he had 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 moved to Nashville where he began his career as a struggling songwriter.

In 1968 Rabbitt took the plunge and headed to Nashville by way of the famous WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. On his first night in Music City, whilst sitting in the bath, he penned “Working My Way Up to the Bottom”, a song which soon afterwards was recorded by Roy Drusky, who charted with it.

Despite this initial and unexpected success he found himself earning just $37.50 a week as a staff writer with Hill & Range Publishing, living in an uncomfortable apartment with just a rooster for company.

His 1968 single, released on 7″ 45 RPM vinyl was The Bed / Holding On. / Columbia / Date label #1599 / Genre Country.

EddieRabbitt-TheBed-Sleeve

In 1970 Eddie finally got his big break in Nashville when Elvis Presley recorded his song ”Kentucky Rain.”

Four years later Ronnie Milsap took Eddie Rabbitt’s song “Pure Love” to the top of the country charts

In 1974 Eddie Rabbitt signed with Elektra Records and made his chart debut as a vocalist / #34 / “You Get To Me

A string of hits followed, which were recorded by numerous artists including ”The Bed” by Tom Jones 

In early 1976 he enjoyed his first No 1 as a vocalist with “Drinking My Baby (Off My Mind)“. Co-written with his regular collaborator Even Stevens, it had originally been cut by Texas’s honky-tonker Johnny Bush and was to prove the first of 17 trips to the top of the country charts.

The next, “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” (1978), was the first country record to feature synthesised drums, and pointed the way to other Pop-flavoured hits.

Every Which Way But Loose” (1979), taken from the Clint Eastwood movie of the same name, helped start a trend in country-oriented movie soundtracks, though Rabbitt refused to record the theme to its sequel Any Which Way You Can (1980).

His 1979 hit ”Suspicions” won him the prestigious Robert J. Burton award as the most-performed song of the year in 1980.  Rabbitt said that he wrote the song “in five minutes in the studio during a lunch break“.

Other Pop hits followed including “Someone Could Use a Heart Tonight” and “You Can’t Run From Love” (both 1982).

Drivin’ My Life Away” and “I Love a Rainy Night” were infectious up-tempo numbers; the former obviously indebted to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and the latter featuring rockabilly echoes. Both crossed over into the Pop charts, selling a million copies each in the process.

A 1982 duet with Crystal Gayle, “You and I“, not only topped the charts but gained additional popularity when used as a love theme on the daytime soap All My Children.

Four years later another duet, “Both To Each Other (Friends and Lovers)” with Juice Newton, followed suit, though this time propelled to No 1 courtesy of the rival soap Days of Our Lives.

In 1983 Rabbitt’s newborn son Timothy was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition which necessitated near constant care and ultimately a liver transplant.

In 1984, Eddie released an album and the title song The Best Year Of My Life.

Sadly, little Timothy, died after a two-year struggle. The illness and subsequent death of his son put his career on hold following the release of “Rabbitt Trax” and he cut back on his touring schedule, never returning to a full-throttle career.

In 1985 he signed to RCA Records and released “Rabbitt Trax”, which included the No. 1 “Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)“, a duet with country-pop star Juice Newton. Like “You and I,” the song was used as the theme for a soap opera, this time for Days of Our Lives.

Rabbitt returned from his hiatus in 1988 with the release of “I Wanna Dance With You”, which despite somewhat negative reviews, produced two No. 1 songs: a cover of Dion’s “The Wanderer” and the album’s title track.

Additionally, his LP “We Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” entered the top 10, although the album’s final single “That’s Why I Fell in Love with You” stalled at #66.

1990 saw the release of Rabbitt’s positively reviewed Capitol Records album Jersey Boy and its hit single “On Second Thought“, which held as Rabbitt’s final No. 1 of his career.

The album also included “American Boy“, a patriotic tune popular during the Gulf War and later used in Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.

Rabbitt released the album Ten Rounds in 1991, which produced the final charting single of his career, “Hang Up the Phone.” Following that release he left Capitol Records to tour with his band “Hare Trigger.”

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.

On May 7, 1998 in Nashville, Edward Thomas Rabbitt died from lung cancer at the age of 56. He had been diagnosed with the disease in March 1997 and had received radiation treatment and surgery to remove part of one lung.

Studio albums

1970s

Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Country US CAN Country
Eddie Rabbitt
  • 1975
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
41
Rocky Mountain Music
  • 1976
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
14
Rabbitt
  • May 24, 1977
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
4
Variations
  • March 14, 1978
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
9 143 9
Loveline
  • May 9, 1979
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
5 91
“—” denotes releases that did not chart

1980s

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US Country US CAN Country
Horizon
  • June 20, 1980
  • Elektra Records
  • LP, 8-track
1 19 5
  • CAN: Platinum
  • US: Platinum
Step by Step
  • July 31, 1981
  • Liberty Records
  • LP, cassette
1 23
  • US: Gold
Radio Romance
  •  October 1, 1982
  • Liberty Records
  • LP, cassette
5 31
The Best Year of My Life
  • September 17, 1984
  • Warner Bros. Records
  • LP, cassette
22
Rabbitt Trax
  • March 24, 1986
  • RCA Records
  • LP, cassette
6
I Wanna Dance with You
  • March 1, 1988
  • RCA Records
  • LP, cassette
34
“—” denotes releases that did not chart

1990s

Title Album details Peak positions
US Country
Jersey Boy
  • April 17, 1990
  • Capitol Records
  • CD, cassette
34
Ten Rounds
  • August 27, 1991
  • Liberty Records
  • CD, cassette
Beatin’ the Odds
  • September 23, 1997
  • Intersound Records
  • CD, cassette
Songs from Rabbittland
  • April 10, 1998
  • CEMA
  • CD, cassette
“—” denotes releases that did not chart