Eddie Money, a onetime police officer trainee who sang his way to pop-rock stardom in the late 1970s with songs such as "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On," then became a humorous, self-deprecating staple of MTV while battling drug and alcohol abuse, died Sept. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 70.
His family announced the death, according to the Associated Press. Money underwent heart valve surgery in the spring, canceled concert dates because of pneumonia and announced in August that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer.
A singer-songwriter who also played the saxophone, keyboard and harmonica, he specialized in a polished, upbeat brand of blue-collar rock - notably in "Take Me Home Tonight" (1986), which featured former Ronettes vocalist Ronnie Spector singing "be my little baby" during the chorus, in a nod to her 1963 hit "Be My Baby."
The single revitalized Spector's singing career, earned a Grammy nomination and became Money's biggest commercial success, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard charts despite his early skepticism that the song would be a dud. "If it didn't have Ronnie on the tune, I never would have done it," he told the Detroit Free Press.
Its popularity capped a remarkable decade-long run for Money, a Long Island rocker who was plucked from obscurity by rock impresario Bill Graham; opened for Santana, the Rolling Stones and the Who after releasing his first album; nearly crippled himself from a drug overdose; and recovered in the early 1980s to become a shaggy-haired fixture of the newly created television channel MTV.
"Ever since I was young I'd sing in my home / Those crazy songs I heard on the radio," he declared in "Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star," from his 1977 self-titled debut. He wanted "a mansion on the hill" and "thousand dollar bills" to burn, he said, and to some degree he got it - certified platinum records, if not wheelbarrows of cash, and a devoted following that persisted into recent years, when he continued touring and starred with his family in an AXS reality series called "Real Money."
Labeled "rock's Rodney Dangerfield" by Rolling Stone, Money spouted profane one-liners and dad jokes in interviews; spoofed himself in a 2012 Geico ad, as a travel agent who sings "Two Tickets to Paradise"; and acquired a reputation as a slightly spastic performer and reckless wild man offstage. "I got so high in the '70s and '80s, my whole life is still an acid flashback," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. "I get up in the morning, smoke a cigarette and see paisley."
Money had initially pursued a far more conventional lifestyle, following his father and grandfather into the New York Police Department. He worked for two years as a clerk and typist, but in 1968 he either quit or was fired - he told both versions of the story, invariably citing his desire to grow out his hair - and moved to Berkeley, California.
Immersing himself in the region's burgeoning rock scene, he studied with Judy Davis, the vocal coach of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, and performed with local groups. He supported himself by selling bell-bottom blue jeans and, perennially broke, adopted a tongue-in-cheek stage name, dropping a few letters from his surname, Mahoney, to become Eddie Money.
Money said he linked up with Graham after playing in a battle of the bands contest at the rock promoter's Winterland Ballroom venue in San Francisco. With Graham's help, he signed a contract with Columbia Records, resulting in a studio debut that most critics panned. "Live inspection reveals that the sleek stud on the cover (and in the ads) is as pudgy and sloppy as his voice," wrote Robert Christgau of the Village Voice.
Nonetheless, the album spawned two Top 40 singles, "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise," and featured an acclaimed backing band that included guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Lyon, saxophonist Tom Scott and a pair of Steve Miller Band veterans, bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Gary Mallaber.
Money found mixed success with a pair of follow-up records and had completed a tour for "Playing for Keeps" (1980) when he snorted a barbiturate, phenobarbital, apparently believing it was cocaine. Amid a night of heavy drinking, he "went into a semi-catatonic state," he said, damaging his kidneys and the sciatic nerve in his left leg. He was unable to walk for nearly a year.
"Eddie Mahoney didn't do this to himself, Eddie Money did this to Eddie Mahoney," he told Rolling Stone while still recovering. "The big rock star with the Mercedes and the half a million dollars in the bank almost ruined what I really am. It took me a lot of years and a lot of work to get what I wanted, but it took Eddie Money only a couple of days to almost throw it away."
His follow-up, "No Control" (1982), invigorated his career and launched him to prominence on MTV with videos for two songs: "Think I'm in Love," a spoof on black-and-white Dracula movies that concluded with Mr. Money being bitten by a vampire; and "Shakin,' " which starred actress and singer Apollonia Kotero (later featured in Prince's film "Purple Rain") as the driver of a bouncing Chevy Malibu.
Into the early 1990s, Money recorded hits such as "I Wanna Go Back," "Peace in Our Time" (originally released by Jennifer Holliday), "I'll Get By," "Endless Nights" and "Walk on Water," which peaked at No. 9 on the charts. For many listeners, however, he was most closely identified with "Two Tickets to Paradise," an anthem that he described as a fantasy.
"I was going with a girl and her mother didn't like me because I was, you know, a rock 'n' roll wannabe," he told the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning Call in 2014. "She used to go home on the weekends, and I would never see her. I wrote 'Two Tickets to Paradise' about having no money. I had a ticket for a bus ride to California - I was going to take a little bus ride. But she dumped me anyway."
Edward Joseph Mahoney was born in Brooklyn on March 21, 1949, and raised in the planned community of Levittown, New York. Partly to score dates with cheerleaders, he began performing in rock groups as a teenager, playing with a band called the Grapes of Wrath. His father disapproved, tearing Jimi Hendrix posters from his bedroom walls.
Money married Laurie Harris in 1989 and had five children. Several performed with him in recent years, after the release of albums such as "Wanna Go Back" (2007). A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
Inspired by the Four Seasons musical "Jersey Boys," Money wrote an autobiographical musical - naturally, it was titled "Two Tickets to Paradise" - that chronicled his rise to fame and premiered in 2009 on Long Island. By then, he said, he had settled into a more low-key lifestyle, taming his excesses to focus on his family.
"Eddie Money is just a figment of your imagination," he told the New York Times. "We let him out for an hour and a half at a time."
This is article was written by Harrison Smith, a reporter for The Washington Post.