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Soul Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy Dead at 80

Author of the Rolling Stones' 'Time Is on My Side' and Janis Joplin's 'Piece of My Heart'

July 19, 2011 8:50 AM ET
Jerry Ragovoy dies rolling stones songwriter
Jerry Ragovoy
AP Photo/ASCAP, Fernando Leon

Jerry Ragovoy, the songwriter behind Sixties soul hits such as "Time Is on My Side," "Piece of My Heart" and "Cry Baby," has died at the age of 80. According to his wife, Bev, he passed away due to complications from a stroke at a hospital in New York City on Wednesday.

Ragovoy, who originally wrote soul songs under the pen name Norman Meade, caught his first taste of success when "Time Is on My Side," a tune he penned for jazz trombonist Kai Winding, became a huge hit for the Rolling Stones. Ragovoy had used the pseudonym because he had intended to use his given name in music written for Broadway.

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Later on, a handful of his songs, including "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "Get It While You Can," were recorded by Janis Joplin. Though the numbers were not written specifically for her, they became signature hits for the singer. Before Joplin died, Ragovoy wrote a song, "I'm Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven," especially for what would have been her next record, but it went unperformed and unrecorded until it was resurrected for One Night with Janis Joplin, a musical revue that recently opened in Portland, Oregon.

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In 1969, Ragovoy founded the Hit Factory recording studio in New York City, which he later sold in 1975. In that time, he worked as a producer and arranger for a roster of artists including Dionne Warwick and Bonnie Raitt.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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