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Space Age Music Maker

Ervin Drake

  • Born Ervin Maurice Druckman 3 April 1919, in New York City

Ervin Drake contributed to two of the top exotica standards. In 1942, he wrote English lyrics to a popular Brazilian instrumental by Zequinha Abreu and produced "Tico-Tico." Then, in 1944, he repeated the trick and turned a Duke Ellington instrumental number by Juan Tizol into "Perdido." (He would later have successes with "Al Di La" for the film "Rome Adventure" and "Quando, Quando, Quando," one of the gems of Italian space age pop.

Drake was an active and successful songwriter for over thirty years. His first financial success came in 1945, when Eddy Howard's recording of his "The Rickety Rickshaw Man" sold over a million copies. His 1946 song, "Good Morning Heartache," became a minor jazz standard, being recorded by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, and Billy Eckstine. He wrote several numbers, including "Made for Each Other," "That's That," and "Yo Te Amo Mucho" that were recorded by Xavier Cugat in the late 1940s.

From 1948 to 1962, Drake focused on television work, both in specials with Gene Kelly, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and Frank Sinatra and in series such as "The Bachelor." Among his television credits is that immortal classic, "To Mamie with Music," a 1956 birthday salute to Mamie Eisenhower. Drake also wrote "I Believe," a song of religious affirmation that sold over 20 million copies in various recordings and is reputed to have been Lady Bird Johnson's favorite song. His 1961 song, "It Was a Very Good Year," provided Frank Sinatra with his first top 10 hit in a decade and a Grammy Award in 1966.

Drake wrote the music and lyrics for two Broadway musicals. "What Makes Sammy Run?" ran for 549 performances and produced two memorable songs, "A Room Without Windows" and "The Friendliest Thing Two People Can Do." His next show, "Her First Roman," ran only 19 performances, but the cast reunited for 25th year anniversary that included the original Caesar (Richrad Kiley) and Cleopatra (Leslie Uggams) in this work adapted from George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra."

Drake was an odd candidate for success as a songwriter. He actually studied graphic arts and social sciences in college, and didn't formally study music until he entered the Julliard School of Music in 1963. He also served as president of the American Guild of Authors and Composers from 1973 to 1982. He lives with his second wife in New York City and Great Neck, Long Island.

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