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Eddie Rabbitt and Fried Artichokes

Getty Images / Paul Natkin

Eddie Rabbitt and Fried Artichokes

In one of the most oddly specific pieces of music journalism to date, critic Harry Sumrall once said that Eddie Rabbitt was "like a hot corn dog: nothing fancy, nothing frilly. You know what you're getting and you like it ... never a country purist, Rabbitt nonetheless makes music that is plain and simple, with all of the virtues that make good country good. [His songs] might be brisk, but they are also warm and familiar, like the breeze that wafts in over the fried artichokes."

I'm not sure exactly where the fried artichokes come in, but other than that, Sumrall hit the nail on the head. Rabbitt's music was wonderful pop-country crossover from a time when country music was earthier and less polished than it is today. Whether he was hitting the top of the Billboard Hot 100 or wowing the fans in Nashville, his songs were plain and simple – and great.

In the 1960s and '70s, Rabbitt began his career by writing songs like "Kentucky Rain" and "Pure Love" that became hits for Elvis Presley and Ronnie Milsap, respectively. Rabbitt then went on to make a splash of his own on the country charts, hitting No. 1 with "Drinking My Baby (Off My Mind)." But his first big crossover hit was in 1978 with "Every Which Way but Loose," from the Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. The single rocketed to No. 1 on the country charts and peaked at No. 30 on the Hot 100.

1980 brought Rabbitt's biggest smash hit – "I Love a Rainy Night" rose to the top of every chart it could have possibly qualified for.

Though Rabbitt's later recordings weren't as successful as "I Love a Rainy Night" or its album mate "Drivin' My Life Away," his 1990 track "American Boy" excited audiences in the era of the first Gulf War. A few years after, Bob Dole – with the blessing of fellow Republican Rabbitt – used the song in his 1996 presidential campaign.

Just two years later, on May 7, 1998, Rabbitt died of lung cancer at 56. It was an abrupt end to a long and fruitful career full of songs that were, we have to say, even better than fried artichokes.

Written by Linnea Crowther