Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10: Jazz singer and songwriter Kenny Rankin was born on this date in 1940...

... he died on June 7, 2009.

Rankin was raised in the multicultural Washington Heights section of New York. While he was introduced to music by his mother who enjoyed singing, he also absorbed other musical influences from his neighborhood, from AfroCuban to Top 40 to Jazz to Brazilian.

As a teenager, he signed with Decca Records and released a handful of singles. A few years later, he signed with Columbia Records, and found himself playing guitar on Bob Dylan's landmark 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. Not long after, he performed on The Tonight Show.

Kenny developed a considerable following during the 70s with a steady flow of albums, three of which broke into the Top 100 of the Billboard Album Chart. His preference for jazz was evident from an early age, but he gravitated towards pop in order to be accepted.

By the 90s he was established enough that he started to sing more songs in his preferred jazz-oriented style and attract new listeners while no alienating his existing fans.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):
The Jazz Channel Presents Kenny Rankin (BET on Jazz)


Rankin appeared on The Tonight Show more than twenty times. Host Johnny Carson was so impressed by him that he wrote the liner notes to Rankin's 1967 debut album Mind Dusters, which featured the single "Peaceful."

Kenny's friend Helen Reddy would reach #2 Adult Contemporary and #12 Pop in 1973 with a cover of it, released as her follow-up single to "I Am Woman." Georgie Fame also had a hit with this song in 1969, his only songwriting credit to hit the British charts reaching number sixteen and spending 9 weeks on the chart.

Rankin's accompanists from time to time included Alan Broadbent, Mike Wofford and Bill Watrous, and on such occasions the mood slips easily into a jazz groove. His compositions have been performed by artists such as Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, while Stan Getz said of him that he was "a horn with a heartbeat."

Rankin was deeply interested in Brazilian music and his Here In My Heart, on which he used jazz guests including Michael Brecker and Ernie Watts, was recorded mostly in Rio De Janeiro. More contemporary songs were given an airing following his move to Verve Records, including the Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face" and Leon Russell's "A Song For You."

Rankin's own unique gift for reworking classic songs such as The Beatles' "Blackbird," which he recorded for his Silver Morning album, so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to perform his interpretation of the song when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Rankin was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in early 2009. He died in Los Angeles, California - where he had resided for many years - from the disease on June 7, 2009. He was 69 years old.


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