Edward Thomas "Eddie" Rabbitt (November 27, 1941 – May 7, 1998) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. His career began as a songwriter in the late 1960s, spring boarding to a recording career after composing hits such 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 "Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)" and "You and I", with Juice Newton and Crystal Gayle respectively, later appeared on the soap operas Days of Our Lives and All My Children.
While he was still relatively unknown, Rabbitt toured with and opened for crossover star Kenny Rogers, and also opened for Dolly Parton on a number of dates during her 1978 tour, but soon Rabbitt would himself break through on other charts. Following the 1978 release of Variations, which included two more No. 1 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 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. The song also broke the record for highest chart debut, entering at No. 18. Rabbitt held this record until it was shared with Garth Brooks at the debut of Brooks' 2005 single "Good Ride Cowboy." The record was broken in 2006 upon the No. 17 chart entrance of Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime." 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. He was given his own television special on NBC, first airing on 10 July 1980, which included appearances by such performers as Emmylou Harris and Jerry Lee Lewis. By this point in his career Rabbitt had been compared to a "young Elvis Presley."
Rabbitt's next album Horizon, which reached platinum status, contained the biggest cross-over hits of his career including "I Love a Rainy Night" and "Drivin' My Life Away." Rabbitt developed "Rainy Night" from a song fragment that he penned during a 1960s thunderstorm. "Driving" recalled Rabbitt's truck-driving days, and was inspired by Bob Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" from Dylan's 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. His popularity was so strong at this point that he was offered his own variety television show, which he went on to respectfully decline stating "It's not worth the gamble."
The release of his 1981 Step by Step album 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. He teamed up with another Country/Pop crossover star, Crystal Gayle, to record "You and I", which was included in his 1982 album Radio Romance. The duet eventually became a large pop smash peaking at No. 5 and No. 3 respectively on the Billboard 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. The song's popularity reached the point where it was used as a love theme for a couple on the soap opera All My Children. The song "You Put the Beat in My Heart" from Rabbitt's second Greatest Hits compilation in 1983 was his final crossover hit, reaching No. 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
In 1976 Rabbitt married Janine Girardi, whom he described as "a little thing about 5-foot tall, with long, black beautiful hair, and [a] real pretty face." He had previously written the songs "Pure Love" and "Sweet Janine" for her. They had three children, Demelza, Timmy and Tommy. 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, stating that "I didn’t want to be out of the music business, but where I was was more important." Tommy was born in 1986.
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, of which he served as the honorary chairman. He also worked as a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and United Cerebral Palsy. Rabbitt was a registered Republican and "with pleasure" gave permission to Senator Bob Dole to use his song "American Boy" during Dole's 1996 presidential campaign.
On 7 May 1998 in Nashville, Eddie Rabbitt died from lung cancer at the age of 56.
Awards for Rabbitt include the following:
Top New Male Vocalist: The Academy of Country Music Awards (1977)
Country Songwriter of the Year: Music City News (1979)
Robert J. Burton Award for “Suspicions”: BMI (1979)
Song of the Year for “Suspicions”: BMI (1980)
Best Pop Male Vocalist: American Music Award (1981)
Three Million-Air Award for “I Love A Rainy Night”: BMI (1996)
Two Million-Air Award for “Kentucky Rain”: BMI (1996)
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame: Nashville Songwriters Foundation (1998)