When Rabbitt arrived in Nashville during the late 1960s, a friend gave him a pet chicken. Rabbitt noted that he had “an affinity for animals” and kept the bird for a while before ultimately giving it to a farmer. During his Nashville days in the early 1970s, Rabbitt owned a pet monkey named Jojo. Prior to his Rocky Mountain Music tour, the monkey bit Rabbitt, leaving his right arm in bandages.
In 1976 Rabbitt married Janine Girardi, whom he described as “a little thing about 5-foot tall, with long, black beautiful hair, and [a] real pretty face.” He had previously written the songs “Pure Love” and “Sweet Janine” for her. They had three children, Demelza, Timmy, and Tommy. Timmy was diagnosed with biliary atresia upon birth. The condition required a liver transplant for survival and he underwent one in 1985, but the attempt failed and he died. Rabbitt temporarily put his career on hiatus, stating that “I didn’t want to be out of the music business, but where I was more important.” Tommy was born in 1986.
Rabbitt felt it was his responsibility as an entertainer “to be [a] good role model” and was an advocate for many charitable organizations including the Special Olympics, Easter Seals, and the American Council on Transplantation, of which he served as the honorary chairman. He also worked as a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and United Cerebral Palsy. Rabbitt was a registered Republican and “with pleasure” gave permission to Senator Bob Dole to use his song “American Boy” during Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign
On May 7, 1998 in Nashville, Eddie Rabbitt died from lung cancer at the age of 56. He had been diagnosed with the disease in March 1997 and had received radiation treatment and surgery to remove part of one lung. His body was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, following a private burial on May 8. No media outlet reported the death until after the burial, at the family’s request, and the news came as a surprise to many in Nashville, including the performer’s agent who “had no idea Eddie was terminal” and had talked to him often, remarking that Rabbitt “was always upbeat and cheerful” in the final months of his life. Although he was widely believed to have been born in 1944 (this year can still be found in older publications and texts), it was revealed at the time of his death that he had died at age 56.
- November, 27, 1941
- Brooklyn, New York
- May, 07, 1998
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- Lung cancer