Birth Date: January 29, 1917
Birth Place: Santa Ana, California, USA
Date of Death: February 20, 2005 / Age: 88
Location of Death: Pacific Palisades, California, USA
Cause of Death: pneumonia
Biography: One of the top Broadway baritones of the post WWII period, John Raitt maintained an incredibly resilient career that spanned over 60 years, showing remarkable power, range and stamina for a man who defied the odds by concertizing well into his 80s. He was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1917, the son of Archie John Raitt and Stella Eulalie Walton, and graduated from the University of Redlands. Studying legit with Richard Cummings in his early years, one of his first appearances would be in 1940 in the chorus of HMS Pinafore with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Company. The following year he played the roles of Figaro and Count Almaviva in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium production of "The Barber of Seville," as well as Escamillo in "Carmen." At this time he earned an MGM contract and was seen without much fanfare in such pictures as Flight Command (1940), Little Nellie Kelly (1940) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941). 1944 proved to be John's breakthrough year after winning the role of Curly in the Chicago production of the new big hit musical "Oklahoma!" Critics took notice of the man's robust presence, sturdy pipes and unfailing confidence. The virile man with the sly flash in his eye then made his Broadway debut originating the role of the tormented Billy Bigelow in the now-classic musical "Carousel." He never had to look back. His powerful rendition of the "Soliloquoy" number helped him to clinch the prestigious New York Drama Critics and Donaldson Awards. John continued to impress in the musical forum with lead parts in "Magadalena," "New Moon," "Carnival in Flanders" and "Three Wishes for Jamie" (title role). In 1954, he found his second signature role as foreman Sid Sorokin in "The Pajama Game" opposite Janis Paige. Here, he introduced the classic ballad "Hey There" for which he is probably best known. So ideally suited was he in this role that John was asked to transfer Sid to film, this time opposite Doris Day. Although it was an unqualified success, musical films were on their way out and he did not find any more work in the area of cinema. For the next few decades he continued to tour in roles audiences had grown to love (Curly, Billy, Sid). Other suitable vehicles would include "Shenandoah," "1776," "South Pacific," "Man of La Mancha," and "Kismet." By this time he had also grown in stature as a concertist. Back in the 1940s John married pianist Marjorie Haydock. One of their children grew up to become singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt (born 1949), who inherited the vocal/instrumental talents of her parents but took a different, uncompetitive path as a blues-rock guitarist. Despite their polar musical styles, father and daughter performed frequently together on the live stage. John and wife Marjorie would later divorce and he remarried. Seldom on TV, the live stage would be John's invaluable legacy to the music world. He died in 2005 of complications from pneumonia at age 88.