It's ironic that Eddie Rabbitt's last album was titled Beatin' the Odds, an optimistic reference to his lung cancer surgery nearly a year ago.
He finished the album on Sunday, May 18, and went into surgery the following Thursday, May 22.
"After surgery, I opened my eyes and said to the doctor, `Talk to me!' " Mr. Rabbitt recounted for the album's press release in September. "The first thing he said to me was, `It could not have gone any better. I'm excited as hell.' So was I. Before surgery it was extremely sad and painful thinking of my wife and two children living their lives without me. Hopefully, that possibility is now way down the road."
Unfortunately, it wasn't: Mr. Rabbitt died May 7 in a Nashville hospital. He was 56. He left behind his wife, Janine; daughter, Demelza Anne, 16; and son, Tommy, 11.
Mr. Rabbitt had signed with Atlanta-based Intersound Records in January 1997, shortly before he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
He worked feverishly, in spite of chemotherapy treatments, to complete Beatin' the Odds. It contained six new songs and six of his better known numbers: Drivin' My Life Away, Two Dollars in the Jukebox, On Second Thought, Suspicions, I Love a Rainy Night and American Boy.
His last single, Great Old American Town, was released Sept. 23.
"When you're on the road, you pass through a lot of these small towns," Mr. Rabbitt said in the album's press release. "All of these towns made me realize that America is a special place."
Edward Thomas Rabbitt lived the American dream.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he was 27 years old when he got off a Greyhound bus in Nashville in 1968 from East Orange, N.J. He had $1,000 in his pocket and knew no one in the music business.
He first had success as a songwriter with Kentucky Rain (co-written with Dick Heard), which was recorded in 1970 by Elvis Presley. He began recording on his own and scored his first No. 1 hit in 1976 with Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind). He followed it with 25 other songs to hit No. 1.
Other well-known singles include Rocky Mountain Music, We Can't Go On Living Like This, I Can't Help Myself, You Don't Love Me Anymore, Someone Could Lose a Heart Tonight, Step By Step, Just You and I (a duet with Crystal Gayle), and the theme for the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose.
In a lengthy interview three years ago, Mr. Rabbitt talked about how he and his wife dealt with the death of their first son, Timothy Edward Rabbitt, at age 2 in 1985, after a liver transplant.
"As big people, we adults deal with pain the best we can," Mr. Rabbitt said. "But little children not only have to deal with pain but have to understand the where and why of bad things that happen."For my wife and I, our main concern was helping our daughter, who was 3, understand what happened. We explained to her that some kids are born very sick, and it's not meant for them to spend as much time on Earth. We told her Timmy went right on up to heaven. We never ran from bringing up his name every time the subject came up, and we did not make it seem like this was a dark thing that happened."
Mr. Rabbitt's death, likewise, should be looked upon not as "a dark thing that happened." Rather, he should be remembered with joy for the wonderful songs and recordings he left for the ages.