RAYMOND LOUIS “RAY” KENNEDY (NOVEMBER 26, 1946 – FEBRUARY 16, 2014) WAS AN AMERICAN SINGER, SONGWRITER, MUSICIAN AND RECORD PRODUCER, BASED IN LOS ANGELES. HIS WORKS SPAN MULTIPLE GENRES INCLUDING R&B, POP, ROCK, JAZZ, FUSION, ACID ROCK, COUNTRY AND MANY OTHERS. HE CO-WROTE “SAIL ON, SAILOR”, ONE OF THE BEACH BOYS’ MID-CAREER HITS AS WELL AS TWO HITS FOR THE BABYS: “EVERYTIME I THINK OF YOU” AND “ISN’T IT TIME”.
Born in Philadelphia, Kennedy began playing saxophone at age nine; he sang in a cappella groups in New Jersey and Philadelphia before becoming a dancing regular on American Bandstand in 1960. Dick Clark eventually offered to pay him to pantomime playing saxophone with groups such as The Platters, The Drifters, Chubby Checker, Little Richard, and many more.
In 1965 Kennedy recorded his first single as vocalist with then-unknown Kenny Gamble, “Number 5 Gemini” on Guyden Records. That year Kennedy also auditioned for and received a gig playing tenor sax with Gerry Mulligan, one of the top baritone jazz saxophonists in the world. That led to Kennedy leaving his home in New Jersey, playing various jazz clubs and making his way south.
With drummer Jay David, Kennedy eventually left the tour to play various gigs with Dizzy Gillespie, J. J. Johnson, Buddy Rich and the Gene Krupa Jazz Group, until he decided in 1962 that the lifestyle of a jazz musician was simply not for him.
Kennedy went to Paducah, Kentucky to play a few gigs with Brenda Lee; one-nighters with Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wilson Pickett, and many others followed. Encouraged by friend Otis Redding, Kennedy shifted his focus back to singing and moved to New York in 1963. He was signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records, recording as “Jon and Ray” and touring with Jon Mislan, AKA ( Johnny Angel ). In 1966 he formed another band called “Group Therapy” and recorded two albums before deciding to move to Los Angeles with them in 1968.
Kennedy’s first solo album, “Raymond Louis Kennedy”, was released in 1970. That year he befriended Dave Mason of Traffic, and toured with him in support of Mason’s solo album, “Alone Together,” also collaborating on a song “Seasons” that ended up on a future Mason solo album, “Let It Flow.” During this period, Kennedy also co-wrote the Beach Boys hit, “Sail On, Sailor”.
He was featured on the soundtrack to the Brian DePalma cult film sensation Phantom of the Paradise. Kennedy sang “Life at Last”. In the movie, the song was lip-synched by Gerrit Graham as the character Beef, who performed the song as a Frankenstein-type transvestite constructed by the members of The Undead while they themselves performed “Somebody Super Like You (the Beef Construction song)”.
Kennedy spent the next several decades writing, recording and touring with and for musicians including Sly and the Family Stone, Brian Wilson, Dave Mason, Jeff Beck, Barry Goldberg, Maurice White, Aerosmith, Michael Schenker, Engelbert Humperdinck, Wayne Newton, Tanya Tucker, Bill Champlin, Willie Nelson, Mick Fleetwood and many others