Country music star dies of lung cancer

Singer-composer Eddie Rabbitt, the Brooklyn-born son of Irish immigrants who scored dozens of country and pop music hits in the 1970s and ’80s and later voiced disdain for the racy side of rock, has died, his publicist said Friday.

Rabbitt, 56, suffered from lung cancer and underwent surgery to remove part of one lung a little more than a year ago, a spokesman for Brokaw Co. in Nashville said.

He died in a hospital Thursday, but the family withheld the news of his death until after a private burial service.

Rabbitt, whose Irish-born father played the fiddle and accordion, would remark that he had continued to work hard on recording and touring even after earning money and stardom.

”I always break three or four guitar strings per show and fling them at the audience,” Rabbitt said in an interview with Reuters.

Rabbitt also became a vocal opponent of rap music lyrics and music videos that he said glorified sex and violence while aiming at a youthful audience, and he called pop star Madonna the ”Pied Piper from hell” for her video and stage antics.

”I could get on a soapbox all day long about all these greedy people who are selling soft porn, as I call it, to kids buying records,” Rabbitt said in a 1991 interview with a Country Music Association publication.

Rabbitt garnered three Grammy Award nominations in country music categories, and was named the best pop male vocalist at the 1981 American Music Awards.

Among his best-known hits were ”I Love A Rainy Night,” ”Drivin’ My Life Away,” ”The Wanderer,” ”Step By Step,” and ”Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight,” but he also composed songs for other singers.

He launched his career with the composition ”Kentucky Rain,” which became a hit in 1970 for Elvis Presley, but Rabbitt didn’t land his own recording contract until 1974.

He criticized some other songwriters for not writing for the public.

”They use their adjectives in a sort of ‘look at me’ way,” he said in the interview with Reuters.

His second album, ”Rocky Mountain Music,” released in 1976, established him as a hit-maker, and he later wrote the popular theme for the 1979 movie ”Every Which Way But Loose,” starring Clint Eastwood and an orangutan.

Ultimately, Rabbitt scored 26 No. 1 country music hits and eight top-40 pop hits, bunched in the 1970s and early 1980s.

His last album, released in September after his cancer surgery and chemotherapy, was entitled ”Beatin’ the Odds.”

Rabbitt is survived by his wife, Janine, a daughter, Demeiza, 16, and a son, Tommy, 11. Another son, Timmy, died at age 2 in 1985 from a rare congenital defect.

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