Remembering Don't Be Cruel and Great Balls Of Fire Songwriter Otis Blackwell

05/06/2011
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On this day in 2002, American songwriter and producer Otis Blackwell died from a heart attack. He wrote the classic songs "All Shook Up," "Return to Sender," "Don't Be Cruel," "Great Balls Of Fire" and "Fever." Over the years, Blackwell's songs have sold more than 185 million copies. Gibson takes a look back: Although he might not be as well known as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Willie Dixon or Buddy Holly, Otis Blackwell should be considered alongside those greats as one of the architects of rock and roll. A remarkably talented songwriter, Blackwell penned many of the songs that shaped rock music including "Don't Be Cruel," "Fever," "All Shook Up" and "Great Balls of Fire." Blackwell died on this day in 2002, but his songs will live on forever.

Otis was born in 1932 in Brooklyn, New York and grew up playing piano and listening to R&B and country tunes on the radio. "When I was young, I just sat down and started playing Chopsticks at the piano," Blackwell later remembered. "I got so far and then lost interest. Eventually, I regained it and started writing songs."

At the age of 20, he won the famous "Amateur Night" contest at New York City's Apollo Theater. As a result, he landed a record contract, first with RCA and then Jay-Dee. His first single was a song he wrote, "Daddy Rolling Stone," which went on to become pretty popular in Jamaica, where it was covered by Derek Martin. A decade later, it would become a regular selection in The Who's early performances. more on this story

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