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Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen, ‘one of the good ones,’ dies at 74

Born to Jewish immigrants from Russia and raised in Ohio, he leaves a musical legacy that continues on.

From left: Amy and Graham Nash, from left, David and Ellen Spero, Eric and Amy Carmen at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Credit: Courtesy.
From left: Amy and Graham Nash, from left, David and Ellen Spero, Eric and Amy Carmen at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Credit: Courtesy.

Former Clevelander Eric Howard Carmen, a founder of the Raspberries—a power-pop group of the 1970s—will be remembered as “one of the good ones,” someone who “meant a lot to a lot of people” and “leaves a beautiful legacy that continues on.”

Carmen, who was born to Jewish immigrants from Russia, died on March 11 in Arizona. He was 74 years old. No cause of death has been disclosed.

The Raspberries were known for hits such as “Go All the Way” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record).” He and guitarist Wally Bryson led the group from 1970 to 1975. Throughout his career, he sold more than 50 million records.

Carmen was a 1967 graduate of Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio, and attended John Carroll University in University Heights. He lived in Beachwood before moving to the West Coast and then returned to Gates Mills in the 1990s, before moving to Arizona a few years ago.

The singer’s death was shared by his wife, Amy Carmen, in a message on his website.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we share the heartbreaking news of the passing of Eric Carmen,” she wrote. “Our sweet, loving and talented Eric passed away in his sleep, over the weekend. It brought him great joy to know, that for decades, his music touched so many and will be his lasting legacy. Please respect the family’s privacy as we mourn our enormous loss. ‘Love Is All That Matters … Faithful and Forever.’”

‘I used to go see him play’

David Spero, a South Euclid resident and former local radio disc jockey, first met Carmen at a Hullabaloo club in Mentor in the 1960s when he was 14 or 15 years old, and Carmen was two years older, he told the Cleveland Jewish News.

Eric Carmen
American singer Eric Carmen, circa 1991. Credit: Louise Palanker via Wikimedia Commons.

Spero’s father, Herman Spero, created the “Upbeat” television show that featured local bands on it every week and Carmen was on the show two or three times with different bands, Spero said. The two started hanging out after that and learned they lived in the same area and had the same music taste.

“We were always friends, and I used to go see him play,” Spero said. “He used to come and hang out on my radio show on WMMS and then in later years, I became his manager. I was the one that hooked him up to do the Ringo Starr tour and the last album he ever did was one that we did together, which was back in the 90s.”

His last solo album was titled, “Winter Dreams,” which was released in 1997 and recorded at Beachwood Studios in Beachwood.

Spero said as teenagers, they would listen to records, and although Carmen was a musician, he was also a fan.

“He was a fan of the Beatles. He was a fan of the Who and the Small Faces, and all bands that we kind of shared alike as being big fans of,” Spero said. “And that was the basis of our friendship when it first started, and that part never ended.”

Spero helped Carmen fulfill his “lifelong dream” by being his manager when Carmen joined the Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band on tour, which he said was a “highlight” of Carmen’s life to be on stage with a Beatle because “that’s where it all started for him,” he said. Spero was an original member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame board of directors and was inducted into the Personal Managers Hall of Fame in 2023.

The last time Spero said he saw Carmen in person was about two years ago, but they “always stayed in touch” and last spoke two or three months ago. He said there was “some underlying reason” for a call, which would lead into a 45-minute catch-up session. Some of the calls would center around their shared bands and “did you hear this … ,” recalled Spero.

‘He touched quite a lot of people’

Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, didn’t want Carmen to release his hit song, “All By Myself,” but wanted to give it to singer Barry Manilow, Spero recounted. Davis thought Manilow would have a “huge hit with it” and wasn’t sure if Carmen could because it was his first record after leaving the Raspberries, and he was not a well-known name, said Spero.

Eric Carmen With Guitar
Eric Carmen. Source: YouTube.

That song went on to be “a massive hit” that sold more than a million copies in its first year, Spero told the CJN.

His songs have been performed by diverse talents such as Celine Dion, Jewel, Tom Jones, Shaun Cassidy, John Travolta, Babes in Toyland and Motley Crue.

“I got to personally see how much it touched those people and just hearing their stories about what his music meant to them, it makes it all worth it,” Spero said. “What it comes down to for any artist, it’s to make an impact. And between the music he did for the ‘Dirty Dancing’ soundtrack and the ‘Footloose’ soundtrack and his solo hits, and, of course, ‘All By Myself’ being one of the most recorded songs in the history of the world, he touched quite a lot of people.”

Carmen quit touring in 1978 because “living in suitcases, hotels and airports got old and very tiring—it wasn’t much fun,” he told the CJN in a 2004 story. He returned to strictly writing and recording. In the 1980s, he made his mark with the No. 4 hit “Hungry Eyes” from the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack and composed the top 10 song “Almost Paradise” for the film “Footloose.” In addition, he wrote the song and lyrics, and sang the vocals, for the No. 3 hit, “Make Me Lose Control.”

According to, the Raspberries reunited to perform their last show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Party in Cleveland in April 2009

Spero said something about people not realizing that Carmen was “very, very shy”; it is “one of the endearing things” about him.

“They think that everybody who’s a big star is very outward and outgoing, and Eric was exactly the opposite,” Spero said. “He could play piano in front of 60,000 people at a show, but he couldn’t sit in a room with two people and play the piano. He was so embarrassed to do that.”

Carmen “knew when to be Eric Carmen and when to be Eric,” meaning that he never “played the Eric Carmen card” or acted like a big star when he was with friends, Spero said.

Spero and his wife, Ellen, were talking about Carmen after hearing about his death, and she told Spero that their favorite vacations were always with Carmen because “all we would do is laugh for a week.”

“I think that’s what I want to remember him from—those moments, not necessarily being on the road and touring and playing shows every night, but just going out and having a great time,” Spero said.

Cleveland Institute of Music
The East Boulevard entrance to the Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

‘A crack about me being Jewish’

One subject Carmen never touched in his music was the antisemitism he experienced as a child. “I can remember every kid who made a crack about me being Jewish,” Carmen had told the CJN.

Carmen said children on his street who were his friends one day, then were not the next day after learning he was Jewish.

Jim Brickman, a songwriter and pianist from Shaker Heights, said he and Carmen had a similar path, which included growing up in the Cleveland area and attending the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“I just grew up loving his melodies and his writing, and I just thought he was so incredibly talented, just stylistically,” Brickman told the CJN. “It’s very similar to the kind of music that I write, very melodic, very emotional. There was just a huge respect there.”

Brickman and Carmen used to talk on the phone and met in person once or twice, he said. Brickman tried getting Carmen to perform live with him, but Carmen “just didn’t want to do it.”

Carmen was a “superstar songwriter,” according to Brickman, and his songs were “very beautiful” and emotional and were simple, but also complex, he said. In a 2023 CJN story, Brickman ranked Eric Carmen as the No. 1 greatest musician to come out of Cleveland.

Brickman remained a “huge fan” of Carmen. It was “surreal” when Carmen told him that he joined Brickman’s fan club and received updates about his music.

“The great thing about artists is the legacy that they leave and that his music lives on, and that’s such a special thing for people who do what we do because it leaves a mark,” Brickman said. “He leaves a beautiful legacy that continues on, and not many people get a chance to do that in their life and career, when they’re creating art that lasts forever.”

Carmen, who was born on Aug. 11, 1949, to Ruth and Elmer Carmen in Cleveland, is survived by his children, Clayton and Kathryn, and a brother, Fred. He was previously married to Marcy Hill from 1978 to 1979 and Susan Brown from 1993 to 2009, with whom he had the children. He married Amy Murphy in 2016.

This article originally appeared in the Cleveland Jewish News.

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