Kenny Rankin

Kenneth Joseph Rankin (February 10, 1940 – June 7, 2009) was an American singer and songwriter from the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

Kenny Rankin
Born(1940-02-10)February 10, 1940
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 7, 2009(2009-06-07) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, pop, rock,[1] folk[2]
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano
LabelsMercury, Little David, Atlantic, Cypress, Private Music, Chesky, Verve


Rankin was raised in New York and was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. Early in his career he worked as a singer-songwriter and developed a considerable following during the 1970s with a steady flow of albums. Three of them entered the Billboard magazine Album Chart. His admiration for jazz was evident from an early age, but he spent most of his career in pop music.

He was a guitarist on the album Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan.[3] He appeared on The Tonight Show more than twenty times.[3] Host Johnny Carson wrote the liner notes to Rankin's 1967 debut album Mind Dusters, which included the single "Peaceful." Rankin recorded the song again for his album Like a Seed (1972), and Helen Reddy sang a cover version of it that reached No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 12 on the Pop chart. Georgie Fame had a hit with his version of the song in 1969. It was Rankin's only songwriting credit to make the British charts, reaching No. 16 and spending nine weeks on the chart.

When he worked with Alan Broadbent, Mike Wofford, and Bill Watrous, his music got closer to jazz. His songs were performed by Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, while Stan Getz said of him that he was "a horn with a heartbeat". Reflecting his interest in Brazilian music, Rankin record the album Here in My Heart in Rio de Janeiro with jazz musicians Michael Brecker and Ernie Watts. He returned to more contemporary songs after signing with Verve Records, including "A Song for You" by Leon Russell and "I've Just Seen a Face" by the Beatles.[2] After recording the Beatles' song "Blackbird" for his album Silver Morning, he was asked by Paul McCartney to perform it when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[2]

Rankin befriended comedian George Carlin; both were signed to the Little David label. Starting in 1972, Rankin was often the opening act or musical guest for Carlin's live performances. The two flew in Carlin's private jet. Although Rankin had overcome his drug habit at Phoenix House, he returned to cocaine while on tour with Carlin.[4] Rankin and Carlin toured together intermittently for nearly 10 years. Rankin sang at Carlin's memorial service in June 2008.

Rankin died of lung cancer on June 7, 2009, three weeks after he was diagnosed with the illness. Writing in The Guardian, after Rankin's death, Adam Sweeting quoted Denny Stilwell, president of Mack Avenue Records, as saying, "At the time of his death he had been preparing new material for recording. His voice was still in its finest form...He sounded absolutely amazing."[2]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Kenny Rankin among hundreds of musicians whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[5]


  • Mind-Dusters (Mercury, 1967)
  • Family (Mercury, 1969)
  • Like a Seed (Little David, 1972)
  • Silver Morning (Little David, 1974)
  • Inside (Little David, 1975)
  • The Kenny Rankin Album (Little David, 1977)
  • After the Roses (Atlantic, 1980)
  • Hiding in Myself (Cypress, 1988)
  • Because of You (Chesky, 1991)
  • Professional Dreamer (Private Music, 1995)
  • Here in My Heart (Private Music, 1997)
  • The Bottom Line Encore Collection (The Bottom Line, 1999)
  • A Christmas Album (Rankin Music, 1999)
  • Haven't We Met? (Image Entertainment, 2001)
  • A Song for You (Verve, 2002)

As guest

With Benny Carter


  1. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Kenny Rankin". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  2. Sweeting, Adam (10 September 2009). "Kenny Rankin - American singer/songwriter - Obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  3. Yanow, Scott (2008). The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide. Backbeat. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-87930-825-4.
  4. Carlin, George; Tony Hendra (2009). Last Words. Free Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-4391-7295-7.
  5. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
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