Eugene Raskin

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Eugene Raskin or Gene Raskin (Bronx, New York, 5 September 1909 – Manhattan, New York, 7 June 2004),[1] was an American musician and playwright, author of the lyrics of the English version of the Russian song "Those Were the Days" and also of three books on architecture and adjunct professor at Columbia University (1936–1976).[2][3]

Life[edit]

Raskin was born in the Bronx in 1909. He studied at Columbia University and eventually became adjunct professor of architecture at his Alma Mater between 1936 and 1976.[4]

He wrote two plays: in 1949 One's a Crowd, a comedy about an atomic scientist who develops four personalities after his experiments go horribly wrong; in 1951 a romantic play entitled Amata; and later, The Old Friend.

In 1954, Raskin published Architecturally Speaking; Sequel to Cities came in 1971 and Architecture and People in 1974. He also wrote a novel, Stranger in my Arms. In the early 1960s, Raskin and his wife Francesca played folk music around Greenwich Village in New York. They released an album which included "Those Were The Days", which was initially taken up by the Limeliters.[4]

Career Success[edit]

For "Those Were the Days", Gene Raskin had found a Russian tune of composer Boris Fomin, which he had grown up hearing and for which he wrote lyrics in English, then illegally put a copyright on both tune and lyrics.

He and his wife, Francesca, were international balladeers for years. They played London's Blue Angel every year and always closed their show with "Those Were the Days". Paul McCartney frequented the club when they were performing and, when the Beatles formed the Apple label, they recorded Mary Hopkin singing "Those Were the Days", the right to which had been purchased by Paul McCartney through his agent and the Raskin agent. The song subsequently was released in many versions by anyone who could hum or play a Jew’s harp, or even stamp their feet. It was recorded in over twenty languages.

At the peak of the song's success, a New York company made a commercial using the melody to Raskin's version but used their own lyrics, "Rokeach Ga-filte-fish, Rokeach Ga-filte-fish"…, saying that the tune was an old Russian folk tune and was in public domain. Raskin sued and won his case and a settlement, since he had altered the tune a bit to fit his lyrics and had taken out the valid new copyright.

At one time, Raskin opened mail containing a check for $26,000, which were the royalties just for the US mechanicals for that month. Raskin bought a home in Pollensa, Mallorca, a Porsche "Spider" and a sailboat, and lived very well off his royalties for the rest of his life.

He also got royalties from his novel, Stranger in my Arms, his play, The Old Friend, and his several books on architecture, which are still used in various universities around the world.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eugene Raskin, IMDb
  2. ^ The story of Those Were the Days
  3. ^ News, June 12, 2004 The Mary Hopkin International Site.
  4. ^ a b Obituary