Eric Carmen, Raspberries frontman and 'All By Myself' singer, dies at 74

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Eric Carmen, Raspberries frontman and 'All By Myself' singer, dies at 74
He sang on the power-pop pioneers’ 1972 breakout hit, “Go All the Way,” before launching a successful solo career as a soft rock crooner.

by Ron DePasquale

NEW YORK, NY.- Eric Carmen, whose plaintive vocals soared above the crunching guitars of the 1970s power-pop pioneers the Raspberries before his soft rock crooning made him a mainstay of 1980s music, has died. He was 74.

His death was announced on his website by his wife, Amy Carmen. She did not give a cause and said only that he died “in his sleep, over the weekend.”

The Raspberries, which formed in Cleveland, burst onto the American rock scene in 1972 with their self-titled debut album, featuring a raspberry-scented scratch-and-sniff sticker and their biggest hit, “Go All the Way,” a provocative song for its day, sung from the point of view of a young woman.

Dave Swanson of the website Ultimate Classic Rock called it “the definitive power pop song of all time,” as the emerging style, known for grafting bright ’60s-era vocal harmonies onto the heavy guitar riffs of the ’70s, would come to be called.

“The opening Who-like blast leads into a very Beatles-esque verse, before landing in some forgotten Beach Boys chorus,” he wrote. “Thus was the magic of the Raspberries song craft. They were able to take the best parts and ideas from the previous decade, and morph them into something new, yet familiar.”

The Raspberries’ second album, “Fresh,” also released in 1972, would be its highest-charting, at No. 36. It featured two Top 40 hits, “I Wanna Be With You” and “Let’s Pretend.”

The band, known for its matching suits and clean image, was dismissed by some as passé.

“Almost every band had hair down to their waist and beards and ripped jeans and they looked like a bunch of hippies, and I wanted to get as far away from that as I could,” Carmen said in a 2017 interview with the Observer.

The band did earn some critical acclaim and cachet: John Lennon was photographed wearing a Raspberries shirt. Its influence on rock music would only grow over time.

After the band broke up in 1975, Carmen went solo. He swerved into soft rock, quickly scoring a hit single with “All by Myself,” which peaked at No. 2.

In the 1980s, two of his biggest hits came from soundtracks. For 1984’s “Footloose,” he co-wrote “Almost Paradise,” which was recorded by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, and he wrote and sang “Hungry Eyes,” from 1987’s “Dirty Dancing.” “Make Me Lose Control” reached No. 3 in 1988.

Carmen’s songs would be covered by artists as varied as Shaun Cassidy (“That’s Rock ’n Roll”), Celine Dion (“All By Myself”) and John Travolta (“Never Gonna Fall in Love Again”). In 1989, he began appearing with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band.

The Raspberries reunited in 2004. A show from that tour was featured on a 28-song live album in 2017, “Raspberries Pop Art Live. The liner notes were written by the filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who featured “Go All the Way” in his 2000 movie “Almost Famous.”

Carmen was sanguine about the impact of the Raspberries.

“Rock critics got it and 16-year-old girls got it, but you know, the 18-year-old guy who liked Megadeth was never going to like the same record his sister did,” he said in the 2017 interview, before recounting the first time he met Bruce Springsteen.

“I walked in his dressing room before a show and he was writing out the set list and we both looked at each other for a couple of minutes — I was very uncomfortable being on the fan end, so I felt a little stupid. But Bruce looked at me and he goes, ‘You know, while I was writing “The River” all I listened to was Woody Guthrie and the Raspberries’ greatest hits.’ ”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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