Ervin Drake

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Ervin Drake
Ervin Drake.jpg
Drake in 2006
Background information
Birth nameErvin Maurice Druckman
Born(1919-04-03)April 3, 1919
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 2015(2015-01-15) (aged 95)
Great Neck, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s) Songwriter
Years active1931–2015

Ervin Drake (born Ervin Maurice Druckman; April 3, 1919 – January 15, 2015) was an American songwriter whose works include such American Songbook standards as "I Believe" and "It Was a Very Good Year". He wrote in a variety of styles and his work has been recorded by musicians around the world. In 1983, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. [1]

A songwriter is a professional that writes lyrics or composes musical compositions for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated with writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter that writes the lyrics/words are referred to as lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that songwriting is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be written by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

"It Was a Very Good Year" is a song composed by Ervin Drake in 1961 and originally recorded by Bob Shane with the Kingston Trio. It was subsequently made famous by Frank Sinatra's version in D minor, which won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966. Gordon Jenkins was awarded Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for the Sinatra version. This single peaked at #28 on the U.S. pop chart and became Sinatra's first #1 single on the Easy Listening charts. That version can be found on Sinatra's 1965 album September of My Years, and was featured in The Sopranos season two opener, "Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist's Office...". A live, stripped-down performance is included on his Sinatra at the Sands album.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and music publisher/songwriter Abe Olman and publisher/executive Howie Richmond to honor those whose work represents and maintains the heritage and legacy of a spectrum of the most beloved songs from the world's popular music songbook. It not only celebrates these established songwriters, but is also involved on the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships. There are many programs designed to teach and discover new songwriters. Nile Rodgers serves as the organization's chairman.



Born in New York City, Drake had his first song published at age 12, in 1931. The son of Jewish immigrants [2] Max Druckman and Pearl Cohen, he attended Townsend Harris High School in the borough of Queens, New York, graduating in 1935, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from the City College of New York in 1940. His elder brother, Milton Drake, also became a songwriter, with work including "The Java Jive" and "Nina Never Knew"; and his younger brother Arnold Drake, became a writer for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and others, as well as an author and playwright. [3]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and in the U.S. state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Townsend Harris High School

Townsend Harris High School is a public magnet high school for the humanities in the borough of Queens in New York City. Students and alumni often refer to themselves as "Harrisites." Townsend Harris consistently ranks as among the top 100 High Schools in the United States. Its most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking is #40 in the nation, and it was named #1 high school in New York City by the New York Post in 2010.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

Drake provided lyrics for "Perdido", composed by trombonist Juan Tizol, a member of Duke Ellington's orchestra, and first recorded (by Ellington) in 1944. Besides composing music and lyrics for dozens of pieces he was also a television producer and worked with performers including Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle. Among his best known songs is "I Believe", the first hit song ever introduced on television, which was commissioned and introduced by Jane Froman on her television show in 1953, and became a number-one hit for Frankie Laine, holding the record for number of non-consecutive weeks spent at number one. It has also been recorded by many other artists including Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley.

Perdido (song) song

"Perdido" is a jazz standard composed by Juan Tizol that was recorded on December 3, 1941 by Duke Ellington. However, it is the January 21, 1942, recording of the song on the Victor label by the Ellington orchestra, of which Tizol was a member, that is regarded as the original recording. In 1944, Ervin Drake and Hans Lengsfelder were hired to write lyrics for the song.

Juan Tizol Jazz musician and composer

Juan Tizol Martínez was a Puerto Rican trombonist and composer. He is best known as a member of Duke Ellington's band, and as the co-writer of the jazz standards "Caravan", "Pyramid" and "Perdido".

Duke Ellington American jazz musician, composer and band leader

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than fifty years.

He wrote the words and music for "It Was a Very Good Year" in 1961, when a publisher friend told him that Bob Shane of the folk music group the Kingston Trio would be in the publisher's office the next morning, and the publisher asked Drake to write a song for Shane to sing solo. [4] Shane recorded it for the album Goin' Places and other folk performers covered it. [3] In a 2009 interview, Drake said that in 1965, Frank Sinatra had heard the song on his car radio as he was driving home in the desert and immediately pulled over in the middle of the night to a gas station and pay phone. [5] He called Gordon Jenkins and told him he wanted him to make an arrangement with plenty of strings and maybe an interesting instrument like the oboe could be used as well. When he arrived back in L.A. he recorded it for his career comeback album September of My Years . [3] The Sinatra recording was a Top 30 single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, and made No.1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Folk music musical and poetic creativity of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

<i>Goin Places</i> (The Kingston Trio album) 1961 studio album by The Kingston Trio

Goin' Places is the tenth album by the American folk music group The Kingston Trio, released in 1961. It peaked at number three on the Billboard charts and spent 41 weeks in the Top 40. The lead-off single was "You're Gonna Miss Me" which failed to chart. Its B-side was "En El Agua". Goin' Places was the last album recorded with founder Dave Guard as a member.

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

As a lyricist, Drake, with composer Irene Higginbotham, wrote the jazz standard "Good Morning Heartache". It has been recorded by many artists, including Billie Holiday and later Diana Ross when she portrayed Holiday in the movie Lady Sings the Blues . [6] Most recently, Gloria Estefan recorded it for her 2013 album The Standards , and sang it to Ervin and wife Edith on live TV on CBS This Morning . Following the performance Ervin, Gloria and the two hosts bantered a while about love and love lost.

Irene Higginbotham American musician

Irene Higginbotham was an American songwriter and concert pianist. She is best known for co-writing the Billie Holiday song "Good Morning Heartache" (1946).

"Good Morning Heartache" is a song written by Irene Higginbotham, Ervin Drake, and Dan Fisher. It was recorded by jazz singer Billie Holiday on January 22, 1946.

Billie Holiday American jazz singer and songwriter

Eleanora Fagan, better known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz singer with a career spanning nearly thirty years. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills, which made up for her limited range and lack of formal music education.

Drake was the founding president of American Guild of Authors and Composers from 1973 to 1982, which has since changed its name to Songwriters Guild of America. [7]

The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) is an organization founded in 1931, to help "advance, promote, and benefit" the profession of songwriters. It was founded as the Songwriters Protective Association by Billy Rose, George W. Meyer and Edgar Leslie. SGA issued the first standard songwriters contract in 1932 and most writers consider it the 'standard' agreement in the industry. in 1982, SGA moved its executive office from New York City to Nashville. As of February 2012, the Songwriters Guild of America, Inc., has been operating as a Tennessee corporation. Since 1973, The Songwriters Guild Foundation has been organized as a New York corporation.

On January 15, 2015, Drake died at his home in Great Neck, New York due to complications from bladder cancer aged 95. [8] [9]

Awards and honors

Drake received several honorary doctorates and achievement awards, as well as being inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1983. [1]

On June 30, 2013, Five Towns College named the Ervin Drake Popular Music Center after Drake.

Selected works


English-language lyrics written for foreign-language songs


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  1. 1 2 "Ervin Drake". Songwriters Hall of Fame . Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  2. "Ervin Drake, songwriter - obituary". The Daily Telegraph . January 27, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Friedwald, Will (April 2, 2009). "When He Was 46 it Was a Very Good Year" . The Wall Street Journal .
  4. 1 2 Bush, John. "Ervin Drake Biography". AllMusic . All Media Network . Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  5. James, Gary. "Ervin Drake Interview". FamousInterview. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. "Good Morning Heartache".
  7. Klein, Alvin (April 17, 1988). "They Write the Songs: Hit Parade Gala". The New York Times .
  8. Bernstein, Adam (January 15, 2015). "Ervin Drake, songwriter of 'It Was a Very Good Year,' dies at 95". The Washington Post .
  9. Roberts, Sam (January 16, 2015). "Ervin Drake, Composer of Pop Songs, Dies at 95". The New York Times . p. D6.
  10. "Ervin Drake Songs". AllMusic . All Media Network . Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  11. "Heads or Tails". Playbill . Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  12. "What Makes Sammy Run?". Playbill . Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  13. "Her First Roman". Playbill . Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  14. "Sophisticated Ladies". Playbill . Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  15. Motown the Musical at the Internet Broadway Database