Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy R.I.P.

Jerry Ragovoy, who wrote such hit songs as The Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side" and Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," passed on 13 July 2011 at the age of 80. The cause was complications from a stroke.

He was born Jordan Ragovoy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 4 September 1930. He started out in the music business as a record buyer for the record department of Tregoobs, an appliance store in Philadelphia. In 1953 he and the store's owner, Herb Slotkin, founded the record label Grand to record The Castelles, a local doo wop group.  He was later hired by Chancellor Records, where he wrote arrangements for Frankie Avalon. He wrote the song "About This Song Called Love" for Fabian.

In 1962 he moved to New York City in hopes of becoming a Broadway songwriter, but his career plans were sidetracked by his success as a writer of pop songs. With Bert Berns he wrote the hit "Cry Baby" for Garnett Mimms and The Enchanters. He wrote "Time Is On My Side," perhaps his best known hit, for jazz trombonist Kai Winding. It was recorded by Irma Thomas in 1964. It was soon followed in 1964 by The Rolling Stones' version, which went to number 6 on the American Billboard Hot 100.

During his career Mr. Ragovoy would write several successful songs, most being soulful ballads similar to "Time Is On My Side." Among the songs he wrote were "All I Know is the Way I Feel," "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face," "Move Me No Mountain," "Pata Pata," and "You Better Believe It." Janis Joplin would have particular success with his songs, recording not only "Piece of My Heart," but covers of "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Get It While You Can," and "My Baby" as well.

Jerry Ragovoy was certainly a great talent as a songwriter. He wrote songs that had real emotion behind them. He was also versatile. While his best known songs tended to be ballads, he also co-wrote "Pata Pata" with African singer Miriam Makeba and the rocker "You Better Believe It" recorded by Small Faces. His impact on popular music was fairly large, giving The Rolling Stones their first full fledged hit in the United States and Janis Joplin the biggest hit of her career."

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