Jerry Ragavoy, who wrote Janis Joplinâ€™s signature hit â€œPiece of My Heartâ€ as well as â€œCry Babyâ€ and â€œTime Is On My Side,â€ died Wednesday from complications of a stroke. He was 80.
Known as a friendly man who always had a story to tell, Ragavoy was a key player in the New York music business for several decades starting in the early 1960s. His songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, the Dave Clark Five, Barry White, B.B. King, the Yardbirds, Bette Midler, Faith Hill and dozens of others.
Besides songwriting, he founded and ran the famed Hit Factory studio.
Born in 1930, he got his start as a record buyer for an appliance store in Philadelphia, and at the age of 23 he produced his first record: â€œMy Girl Awaits Meâ€ by the Castelles, which appeared on the fledgling Grand label and whose ethereal sound has made it one of the classic seminal recordings of rhythm and blues vocal groups.
He later moved to the more mainstream Chancellor label, where he produced records by teen stars like Frankie Avalon. But he tired of that and moved to New York, where he returned to his preferred rhythm and blues.
His first chart hit of the 1960s was â€œA Wonderful Dream,â€ recorded by the Majors.
â€œTime is On My Side,â€ written for jazz trombonist Kai Winding and later recorded by Irma Thomas, was then picked up by the Rolling Stones and became their first U.S. top-10 hit.
â€œPiece of My Heartâ€ was recorded by Erma Franklin before Joplin heard it and turned it into her biggest hit.
Ragavoy later produced Bonnie Raitt and other artists, winning a Grammy in 1973 for producing the cast album â€œDonâ€™t Bother Me, I Canâ€™t Cope.â€
He eased off on his work, however, only taking a few projects in later years. He produced the acclaimed 2003 comeback album by Howard Tate, with whom he had worked extensively in the 1960s.
He is survived by his wife Beverly and twin daughters.