Perhaps more than any other genre, country music has always been filled with singing stars who got their start as songwriters. Many worked behind the scenes for years, surviving by furnishing memorable songs to better-known singers before hitting the big time as a performer. A good example would be a guy who wrote a couple of classic songs — Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” and Ronnie Milsap’s “Pure Love” — but later became better known as a singing star himself.
Eddie Rabbitt didn’t come from traditional country music roots, especially when you take into account that he was second-generation Irish, born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. But he leaned toward the music even while growing up, becoming a skilled guitarist and singer as a teenager. By the time he’d reached adulthood, he’d managed to make a few appearances in clubs and on the radio, and had even cut a couple of records that pretty much went nowhere.
In the late 1960s, Eddie headed for Nashville, where he still didn’t gain a lot of traction as a performer and had to work some odd jobs to pay the rent, but he did begin to attract some attention for his songs. After a few years furnishing hits for other singers, he finally began to break out as a performer in the mid-1970s with several good sellers, including songs like his first number-one, “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind),” along with other country pieces like “Two Dollars In The Jukebox.”
For the next couple of decades Eddie was one of the most popular singing stars around, but his style gradually changed away from country and closer to Nashville pop with an occasional R&B flavor. Some of his biggest were “Every Which Way But Loose,” “Step By Step,” and his mega-hits, “Drivin’ My Life Away” and “I Love a Rainy Night.”
Eddie had many other hits, including the under-appreciated but outstanding “Suspicions” but in the late 1980s he began to slow down a little and also had to fight family health problems. In the following decade his own illness with lung cancer was discovered, and he died in 1998. His legacy as a songwriter and as a surprisingly diversified musician remains.