Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rabbitt food for country's Hall

For four weeks in 1981 two different country performers crossed over into mainstream and ruled the Billboard pop chart, supplanting Kool and the Gang and making REO Speedwagon wait in line for top billing.

The first artist was no surprise at all. Dolly Parton, who has been in the Country Music Hall of Fame since 1999, wrote and sang the title song to the movie "9 to 5" and more than held her own acting in the company of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

The second was the Brooklyn born and Jersey reared Eddie Rabbitt, who today receives a closer look for his significant singing and songwriting contributions and his curious absence from the Hall of Fame. (He died of lung cancer in 1998 at age 56.)

Anybody who was paying attention at all to country music at that time would remember Rabbitt as a popular and successful star. There was a period between 1978-83 when 13 of Rabbitt's 15 charted songs made it to No. 1 on the country chart. That's an impressive run. Two of those were from movies, giving him wider recognition: the title song from "Every Which Way But Loose" and "Drivin' My Life Away" from Roadie.

It's even more impressive when you stack him up against some legends: Rabbitt had more No. 1 singles (20) than Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings or Loretta Lynn. He also wrote Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain" and Ronnie Milsap's "Pure Love." The song that crossed over to No. 1 at this time in 1981 was "I Love a Rainy Night," which followed "Drivin' My Life Away" and gave him back-to-back gold records.

This year the Hall of Fame adds singers Jimmy Dean, Ferlin Husky and Don Williams and producer Billy Sherrill, all of whom are deserving. Now the Sanctuary hasn't been keeping close tabs, but scanning the list of inductees we can't find Eddie Rabbitt's name anywhere. How is that possible?

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