A textbook example of East Coast blue-collar rock-n-roll during the 1970s and 1980s, singer Eddie Money mined chart gold from a string of high-energy anthems, including "Two Tickets to Paradise," "Shakin'," and "Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby). " On stage and in the recording studio, Money displayed an unbridled affection for the 1950s and '60s-era rock and R&B that provided a sonic backdrop for his childhood in New York by infusing it into his own material, which launched in 1977 with a pair of Top 30 hits in "Paradise" and "Baby Hold On." Money soon added a Top 20 single with "Think I'm In Love" to his roster of songs, but his career went into a tailspin for much of the early 1980s due in part to rampant drug issues. He recovered shortly before the release of his biggest chart hit, "Take Me Home Tonight," which featured girl group legend Ronnie Spector on emphatic backing vocals. This begat a second wave of Money's career, which capped in the early 1990s after several additional Top 10 hits, including "Walk on Water." Though his subsequent albums found few listeners outside of his loyal fan base, Money's songs remained a staple of classic rock radio, and his live performances remained a soulful sanctuary for Money's particular brand of party-hearty rock and soul.
Born Edward Joseph Mahoney on March 21, 1949 in Brooklyn, NY, Eddie Money was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and brother by becoming a New York Police officer. He dutifully attended the police academy, but after hours, he could be found singing in area clubs. After serving two years at a desk job with the New York Police Department, Money handed in his badge and headed west to Berkeley, CA in 1968 to purse his career in music. He struggled for several years, often landing in hot water for marijuana possession and petty theft, but after taking vocal lessons with famed coach Judy Davis, he renamed himself Eddie Money and made a name for himself on the Bay Area club circuit with a group called the Rockets. Promoter Bill Graham soon signed him to his management company while also brokering a recording contract with Columbia Records, which released his eponymous debut album in 1977. The record rose to No. 37 on the strength of "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On," a pair of Top 30 hits which underscored Money's knack for the sort of Tri-State/Jersey Shore rock and soul made popular by Bruce Springsteen, Gary "U.S." Bonds and others.
Two follow-ups, Life for the Taking (1978) and 1980's Playing for Keeps, performed moderately well, but Money returned to the Top 20 with "Think I'm in Love," a Top 20 hit from his fourth album, No Control. A second single from the record, "Shakin'," only reached No. 63 on the Billboard Hot 100, but became a staple of FM radio in years to come. Both songs were helped immeasurably by music videos which featured Money in offbeat, self-deprecating situations, like dressing in vampire drag for "Think I'm in Love." However, Money's second stint in the limelight proved short-lived due to a combination of substance abuse problems and underperforming LPs like Where's the Party?, which capped its chart appearance at No. 67. He took the next three years to recover from his addictions, after which he released his fifth record, Can't Hold Back. Its lead single, an unabashed paean to the Brill Building/Motown sound of the early '60s called "Take Me Home Tonight (Be My Baby)," featured Ronettes vocalist Ronnie Spector offering sassy girl-group counterpoint to Money's impassioned vocals. The tune would become the biggest hit of his career, netting a Grammy nomination while also rising to No. 4 on the pop charts and topping the album rock tracks chart in the summer of 1986. More significantly, it revived interest in Spector's career, which had flagged in the wake of her turbulent divorce from producer Phil Spector in the early 1970s.
Can't Hold Back produced three more hit singles, including "I Wanna Go Back," which rose to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. His winning streak would extend to the end of the decade, with "Walk on Water," from 1988's Nothing to Lose (1988), reaching the Top 10, while the single "Peace in Our Time," from a 1989 greatest hits compilation called The Sound of Money, rose to No. 11. It proved to be the end of his reign in the Top 20, as changing tastes in pop and rock kept later releases like Right Here (1991) and Love and Money (1995) in the lower depths of the album charts. Money retained his core fan base through relentless touring throughout the 1990s and beyond, for which he was occasionally accompanied by his daughter, Jesse, who provided Spector's signature vocals on renditions of "Take Me Home Tonight." Money also enjoyed occasional turns as an actor on "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007) and as the former husband of the cartoonish foil Mimi Bobeck (Kathy Kinney) on "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004). In 2007, he paid tribute to his roots with Wanna Go Back, a collection of early '60s rock and soul covers.
By Paul Gaita