He was a singer-songwriter born Edward Thomas Rabbitt in
Brooklyn, New York and grew up in East Orange, New Jersey. His father, who was an adept accordionist
and fiddler, worked at a local oil refinery and performed at some of New
York City’s dance halls.
Obviously growing up with a musical parent rubbed off
on Eddie and he began learning the guitar with the aid of lessons from his
scoutmaster. By the time he
was twelve he was skilled in the instrument and by the time he as a
teenager he was what he described as “a walking encyclopaedia of country
music”. He left school when he
was sixteen after his parents had gone their own separate ways but when he was
older he enrolled in night classes to gain his high school diploma.
During the 1950s he continued with his love of music and
while he was working a day-job as an attendant in a psychiatric hospital,
he spent his evenings playing at a local club. He managed to get himself an hour’s air time on a Saturday
live broadcast after he’d won a talent contest and later in 1964 he landed
his first recording contract with 20th Century. With them he issued the singles “Six
Days and Seven Nights” and “Next to Note”.
In 1968 he relocated to Nashville to work as a
songwriter and within a very short time Roy Drosky recorded his “Working My
Way From the Bottom Up” which had been written the first day he arrived in
the city. He worked in several
temporary jobs to help him eke out his finances, but a music publishing company
snapped.him up and put him on a salary.
By 1969 he was seeing success as the writer of “Kentucky
Rain” which became a gold record for Elvis Presley. That set him on his way and five
years later Ronnie Milsap recorded “Pure Love” which would be Eddie’s first
In 1974 he was offered a deal by Elektra and in 1975
he signed and released “You Get To Me” which was his first single and also
made the Top 40 chart. A
further two releases, “I Should Have Married You” and “Forgive and Forget” saw
him reaching the Top 20. He also released his eponymous debut in 1975.
In 1976 he achieved his first #1 on the Country charts
with “Drinkin’ My Baby (Of My Mind)” which came from the album Rocky
Mountain Music. In 1977 he
reached the Top 5 of the Country album chart with his Rabbitt and was
also given the honour of the Academy of Country Music naming him “Top New
Male Vocalist of the Year”.
He went on the road as Kenny Roger’s opener and in
1978 saw two more released reaching the #1 spot. He released further albums and then he managed to
achieve crossover status when he topped the Billboard 100, the Country and
the Adult Contemporary charts with his theme for the Clint Eastwood Movie “Every
Which Way But Loose”. At that
time it held the record for the highest chart debut when it entered at #18.
The following year he had a further crossover hit with
his “Suspicions” and in 1980 he had his own TV special with guest
performers. Further crossover hits
and successful albums ensued but he declined having his own television
shows. His hit “You and I”
which was a duet with Crystal Gayle was so popular that it became the theme
for TV’s All My Children.
He continued with chart success during the first half
of the 1980s with hit songs such as “I Love a Rainy Night” and “Both to
Each Other (Friends and Lovers)”, which was duet with Juice Newton, topped
the charts and was used for the theme for Days Of Our Lives.
Then tragedy struck when his son battled illness and
sadly passed away and from 1985 until 1988 he bowed out of the music
industry. He returned with a
new album and two further #1 hit songs and in 1990 he released the album Jersey
Boy, which produced his final No. 1, “On Second Thought”. His final chart song was his 1991 “Hang Up The Phone” and
after that success he oured the country with his backing band, Hare Trigger. Bob Dole chose a later song
entitled “American Boy” in 1996 for his presidential campaign.
He changed his label to Intersound Records in 1997 but
it was shortly after that he received the nrews that he as suffering from
lung cancer. He received treatment
and released Beatin’ the Odds and a final album in 1997, Songs
From Rabbittland. He
passed away in May 1998 when he was 56 years old, but his death wasn’t
announced until after his burial.
The album From the Heart was posthumously released.