Composer, Pianist, Orchestra Leader
Ralph Rainger won a scholarship to a prestigious music school but at the behest of his parents left after a year to work his way through law school, playing piano and accompanying vaudeville shows at night. His heart wasn’t in his law practice so he left in 1928 to co-lead a Broadway pit orchestra. In 1929, while working on the revue The Little Show, he was called upon to write an additional song for the star, Libby Holman, and came up with “Moanin’ Low” for the Howard Dietz lyric. In 1930 he wrote another show hit with Leo Robin, beginning a prolific partnership that would last until his untimely death in a plane crash.
The songwriting pair took off for Hollywood and wrote for over 100 films between 1930 and 1942, including Blonde Venus (1932), Torch Singer (1933), Little Miss Marker (1934), Moon over Miami (1941) and Footlight Serenade (1942). They had plenty of hits as well: “A Guy What Takes His Time” (1933) for Mae West; “Love in Bloom”(1934), which became Jack Benny’s theme song; “June in January” (1934) and “Blue Hawaii” (1937), both sung by Bing Crosby; “If I Should Lose You” (1936), which became a popular jazz standard; and the Oscar-winning “Thanks for the Memories” which became Bob Hope’s theme song after he introduced it in The Big Broadcast of 1938.
Three of Rainger’s songs would become closely associated with Billie Holiday. “I Wished on the Moon” (1935), with words by Dorothy Parker, was sung by Crosby in The Big Broadcast of 1936. Also in 1935 Rainger and Robin, in collaboration with Richard Whiting, wrote “Miss Brown to You.” But the duo’s most memorable song, “Easy Living,” was written in 1937 and has maintained its popularity to this day.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com
Role: Classical Artist