I always thought Bent Fabric — the pianist and composer who had a big hit with “Alley Cat” in 1962 — had picked a strange stage name, one that sounded like a folded piece of cloth. But it turns out that it’s almost his real name. The Danish-born musician, who is now in his nineties and still active, was born Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, but has been pretty much known as Bent Fabric throughout most of his long career. Speaking as a former radio DJ, I have to think that was a good decision. I’m sure pronouncing his full name would have baffled a lot of people like me.
Fabric began to perform professionally in the years following World War II as the leader of a jazz group, but didn’t really make much of a splash for more than a decade, even though at one point he started his own record label and also worked in films. However, at the beginning of the 1960’s he burst out on the Danish pop music scene with his recording of “Omkring et flygel” (“Around a Piano”). By the following year its popularity had spread internationally under its new name — “Alley Cat” — and it became a hit just about everywhere, even winning a Best Instrumental Grammy in the U.S.
Fabric would prove to be one of the most successful one-hit wonders ever, because even though he never again approached the success of his big hit song (his follow-up — “Chicken Feed” — was a disappointment) he has still enjoyed a solid career in the years since. After his brief burst of popularity, he returned to writing and performing for films and TV, and spent several decades doing that very successfully. The IMDB lists over a hundred movies that he composed for, and thirty with soundtrack credits. He was also credited with a couple of dozen more as a producer, and even had a couple of small acting parts!
Fabric did continue to hit the recording studio from time to time through the years, and in at least one case teamed up with bandleader Acker Bilk. But it wasn’t until after the millennium, when he was in his late seventies, that he again found himself on the charts. He generated a cutting-edge album titled Jukebox, on which he teamed up with a number of other performers, many of them from other genres, like R&B and electronic, and it did very well in Denmark. Not long after, the title song — “Jukebox” — which featured a collaboration with Danish singer Peter Frödin, also became a Top Ten dance hit in the U.S.
In recent years Fabric has continued to remain active, occasionally making public appearances and receiving various honors. In 2014 he generated his fifteenth album, titled Bent Fabricius-Bjerre og Hans Musik. It’s interesting and probably significant that he used his full name. (The rest of the title translates as: ‘and His Music’.)
It appears that he’s still going strong after more than seventy years is the music business. Good for him!