14th July 2011
The great songwriter and record producer Jerry Ragovoy died on Wednesday 13 July.
Jordan (Jerry) Ragovoy was born in Philadelphia to parents of Hungarian-Czechoslovakian-Russian origin. He grew up listening to classical and big band music and taught himself to play the piano by studying the works of Ravel, Debussy, Puccini and Stravinsky. At the age of eight he wrote his first song. After a stint working for a record distributor, in 1949 he landed a job in the record department of Treegoob's, an electrical appliance store in an all-black neighbourhood of Philadelphia, where he extended his musical education via daily exposure to gospel, blues and jazz 78s.
It was this diversity of musical influences that inspired Jerry to write and produce songs such as 'Time Is On My Side', 'Stay With Me', 'Get It While You Can' and 'Cry Baby', which combined the drama and sophistication of classical music with the raw emotion of R&B and soul.
His compositions were recorded by Garnet Mimms, Howard Tate, Irma Thomas, Lorraine Ellison, the Drifters, the McCoys, Freddie Scott, Erma Franklin, the Majors, Baby Washington, the Olympics, Herbie Mann, Janis Joplin, Miriam Makeba, the Enchanters, Dusty Springfield, Carl Hall, Estelle Brown, Kai Winding, Dionne Warwick, Ben E King, the Exciters and many others.
Jerry had just filmed an interview in New York for a forthcoming documentary film about his great friend and writing partner Bert Berns when he was taken ill in the taxi back to his hotel. Recognising the symptoms of a stroke, his wife Beverly instructed the driver to take them directly to hospital, where Jerry received immediate treatment but lapsed into a coma. He did not suffer and died peacefully three days later with Beverly (who he referred to as his "LOML") and his daughters by his side. He was 80.
Jerry Ragovoy, R.I.P.