Eddie Rabbitt; Country-Pop Singer

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Eddie Rabbitt, a country-pop singer who topped the charts with bouncy hits such as "I Love a Rainy Night," has died. He was 56.

Rabbitt's publicist said Friday that the entertainer died Thursday. Rabbitt had lung cancer and part of his left lung was removed a year ago.

Rabbitt, a singer-songwriter-guitarist with a tenor voice, had 26 No. 1 country singles. Besides "I Love a Rainy Night" in 1980, they included "Drivin' My Life Away," "Every Which Way but Loose," "Step by Step," "Someone Could Lose a Heart Tonight" and "Two Dollars in the Jukebox."

He also had a No. 1 duet with Crystal Gayle, "You and I," in 1982. His "American Boy" tune was popular with U.S. troops during the Gulf War.

Rabbitt wrote most of his hit songs. In 1990, he said songwriters should never get complacent.

"I think if you start to feel secure, you don't do as well," he told Associated Press. "A writer has to keep one foot in the street and one pocket empty and be hungry for it."

In Southern California, Rabbitt performed at the Roxy in Hollywood, the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater and the Palomino in North Hollywood, where in 1979 he became the first to receive a plaque on the Country Music Walk of Fame.

A Times reviewer said of a 1979 performance by Rabbitt at the Palomino: "He has a knack for writing clever lyrics and melodies and delivers them in a colorful, hardy voice and with an engaging, sometimes even sexy stage manner."

Rabbitt was a straight arrow in an industry with many renegades. He took pride in doing a clean show with no off-color humor.

At the height of his career, Rabbitt scaled back on performing to spend more time with his son, Timothy Edward, who had been born with a liver ailment and died in 1985 at 23 months. The singer and his wife had two other children.

Rabbitt was born in New York and raised in East Orange, N.J. In 1968, with $1,000 in his pocket and no music business contacts, he took a bus from New Jersey to Nashville.

He began writing songs and got his break in 1970 when Elvis Presley recorded his song "Kentucky Rain."

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