Glenn Yarbrough

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Glenn Yarbrough
Yarbrough in 1965
Yarbrough in 1965
Background information
Birth nameGlenn Robertson Yarbrough
Born(1930-01-12)January 12, 1930
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedAugust 11, 2016(2016-08-11) (aged 86)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
InstrumentsVocals, Guitar
Years active1951–2010
LabelsRCA Victor
Associated actsThe Limeliters

Glenn Robertson Yarbrough (January 12, 1930 – August 11, 2016) was an American folk singer and guitarist. He was the lead singer (tenor) with the Limeliters from 1959 to 1963. He also had a prolific solo career, recording on various labels.


Glenn Yarbrough was the lead singer with the Limeliters, one of the most popular folk singing groups of the early 1960s. From 1959 to 1963 the three singers, Glenn Yarbrough on the guitar, Alex Hassilev on the banjo and Lou Gottlieb on the bass, earned millions of dollars by being seen on virtually every television set in the U.S., always having sold-out concerts and selling millions of records. However, he was never happy and spent his entire life wanting something more than just being famous, but he didn't know what it was.

In 1963, he left the Limeliters, which caused the group to break up. He got a boat so he could spend all of his time sailing, but he was so talented and popular that RCA convinced him to come back to dry land and record solo albums for them. Everyone of his generation is likely to remember hearing him sing "Baby the Rain Must Fall", the title song of the 1965 film of the same name. However, he told The Saturday Evening Post, "The only thing success has taught me is that success is meaningless."

His childhood yields some clues to his unrequited search to find a purpose to his life. He was born in Milwaukee on Jan. 12, 1930, into poverty because his parents were social workers without any available jobs during the Great Depression. His father traveled all over the country to one job after another, while he lived with his mother in New York City. He was able to help support his mother as a paid boy soprano in the famous Choir of Men and Boys at Grace Church in Manhattan.

Yarbrough graduated in 1948 from St. Paul's School, located at Brooklandville, Maryland. He attended college at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, where his roommate was Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra records. He started singing folk songs after going to a Woody Guthrie concert; the next day he bought a guitar and taught himself to play. He was drafted during the Korean War and was miserable doing his job as a code breaker, a task for which he had no real preparation. He used his guitar to get him another army specialty and was so talented that he was assigned to perform in Korea and Japan. After leaving the army, he realized he had not prepared himself for any job, but he did know that his voice could support him. He went to South Dakota, then to Chicago and performed on local TV stations and in clubs. He moved to Aspen, Colorado where he ran a club called Limelite. In 1959, he formed the group with Alex Hassilev and Lou Gottlieb and named it after his club. In 1960, they recorded their first album on the Elektra label.

By the late 1960s he was miserable and was looking for something else. He quit entertaining to sail around the world. While sailing to Hawaii, he asked himself what he really wanted out of life and he decided that he would rather teach than sing. He sold his Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Bentley and two Ferraris and his house in New Zealand, his banana plantation in Jamaica and an apartment building he owned in Beverly Hills. He used the money to start a school in the mountains outside Los Angeles for disadvantaged, mostly African-American children. He was incredibly gifted as a singer, but he lacked the knowledge and discipline to run a school, so the school ran out of money and he had to close it down in the early 70s.

He divorced his first wife, Peggy Goodhart, and married his second, Annie Graves, built and moved into a 57-foot sailboat and spent the next five years on the high seas. Through these years, promoters sent sporadic requests for the Limeliters to get back together, and in 1973 they gave a reunion concert at Chicago's Orchestra Hall to a sold-out audience. The public responded so enthusiastically to that performance that, despite some conflicts, the group stayed together until 1981. Then Yarbrough gave up again and once more left to sail around the world. Through the 1980s and 90s, Yarbrough spent most of his time on his boat, but when he ran low on money, he would return to land and record songs and give concerts. The Limeliters continued to perform without Yarbrough, first with Red Grammar and then with Rick Dougherty, but Yarbrough had always been the star and many of the new group's concerts were just openers for Yarbrough's concerts. Gottlieb died in 1996, leaving Hassilev as the only original member of the group. Meanwhile, Yarbrough was still searching for a purpose to his life. He bought a home near Guadalajara, Mexico and grew fruit and vegetables which he gave away to poor people who lived nearby.

Besides not being able to stay with his immensely successful singing group, he also had never been able to stay with one woman. He divorced his first, second and third wives and was separated from his fourth wife at the time he died. In 2010, at age 80, he had lost his concert voice and tried to correct the problem with surgery. I looked all over, but found only one report that he had had a polyp removed from his vocal cords. In the recovery room after surgery, he had a heart attack, stopped breathing and had to have a tracheotomy and be put on a ventilator to revive his breathing. After that, he suffered from progressive dementia and never sang in public again. He had to be cared for full time by his daughter, Holly Yarbrough Burnett, in Nashville and died there at age 86 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a singer he was successful, but he was never satisfied. He spent most of his life running away from his great talent and returned to use his gift only when he needed money to support himself. When surgery took away his magnificent voice, he really had nothing left. He had such a unique voice that it is sad to hear that he did not feel fulfilled. In 1996, Yarbrough told the Los Angeles Times, "You know, I never thought I’d spend a lifetime doing this; it just happened."

The Limeliters & Early Solo Career[edit]

In the late 1950s, Yarbrough moved to Aspen, Colorado, and ran a club, the Limelite. There he formed a folk group with Alex Hassilev and Louis Gottlieb, naming it after the club.

The group's first album, Limeliters, was released in 1960 on Holzman's Elektra label.[1] Yarbrough's lyric tenor voice was well-regarded.[2] Yarbrough left the Limeliters for a solo career in the mid-1960s. His most popular single, and the one for which he is most well-known today is "Baby the Rain Must Fall" (the theme tune from the film of the same name), which entered the Cashbox chart on March 27, 1965[3] and reached #12 pop and #2 easy listening.

There were several Limeliters reunion albums and tours, billed as Glenn Yarbrough and the Limeliters, from the early 1970s into the 1990s.

Later singing career[edit]

Yarbrough provided vocals for the Rankin/Bass Productions animated versions of The Hobbit (1977) singing songs such as "The Greatest Adventure", "The Road Goes Ever On" as well as The Return of the King (1980) singing "Frodo of the Nine Fingers" in addition to singing the title song in the 1966 holiday classic, The Christmas That Almost Wasn't. Yarborough was a featured vocalist on the PSA for the 1980 U.S. Census.[4] Yarbrough also performed Utah Composer Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols, creating a CD of the show as well as taking it on the road to local audiences in the 1990s.

In 2016 (posthumously), the song "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven"[5] was sampled for a song by Ice Cube, which can be heard in a trailer[6] for the video game Mafia III.

Glenn Yarbrough was also an accomplished sailor who owned and lived aboard three different sailboats: Armorel, all teak and still in operation; Jubilee, which Yarbrough helped build, taking three years; and the Brass Dolphin a Chinese junk design, and has, according to Yarbrough, sailed around the world except for the Indian Ocean.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Yarbrough lost his ability to sing due to complications from throat surgery at the age of 80. In his last year or so of life, he suffered from dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other health problems, and was cared for by his daughter Holly in Nashville, Tennessee.[1][7] Holly recorded the album Annie Get Your Gun with her father in 1997.

Yarbrough died from complications of dementia in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 86.[2]



Year Album Billboard 200 Record Label
1951 Follow the Drinking Gourd/The Reaper's Ghost Stratford Records
1957 Come and Sit by My Side Tradition Records
Songs By Glenn Yarbrough a.k.a. Here We Go Baby Elektra Records
1958 Marilyn Child and Glenn Yarbrough Sing Folk Songs
1964 Time to Move On RCA Victor
One More Round 142
1965 Come Share My Life 112
Baby The Rain Must Fall 35
It's Gonna Be Fine 75
1966 The Lonely Things 61
Live at the Hungry I 85
1967 Honey and Wine 141
The Bitter and the Sweet
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her 159
1968 Let the World Go By
We Survived the Madness
1969 Looking Back ? Everest Records
1969 Each of Us Alone 18 Warner Bros. Records
Somehow, Someway; Yarbrough Country
Glenn Yarbrough Sings the Rod McKuen Songbook 189
1970 Let Me Choose Life
Jubilee; The Best of Glenn Yarbrough
1971 Bend Down & Touch Me
1974 My Sweet Lady Stax Records
1977 Easy Now Brass Dolphin Records
1977 The Hobbit (Rankin/Bass NBC Soundtrack) Buena Vista Records
1994 Family Portrait Folk Era Records
1995 Christmas with Glenn Yarbrough
Love for Life
Divine Love
I Could Have Been a Sailor
1997 Glenn & Holly Yarbrough Sing Annie Get Your Gun
2000 Day the Tall Ships Came

With The Limeliters[edit]

  • 1960 The Limeliters
  • 1960 Tonight: In Person
  • 1961 The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters
  • 1962 Sing Out!
  • 1962 Through Children's Eyes
  • 1962 Folk Matinee
  • 1962 Our Men in San Francisco
  • 1963 Makin' a Joyful Noise
  • 1963 Fourteen 14K Folk Songs
  • 1964 The Best of The Limeliters
  • 1964 The London Concert
  • 1968 Time to Gather Seeds
  • 1974 The Limeliters Reunion Volume One
  • 1974 The Limeliters Reunion Volume Two
  • 1976 Glenn Yarbrough and The Limeliters Chicago tape I (released early 2000s (decade))
  • 1976 Glenn Yarbrough and The Limeliters Chicago tape II (released in the early 2000s (decade))
  • 1977 Pure Gold
  • 1993 Joy Across the Land Glenn Yarbrough and The Limeliters
  • 2001 Recently Found- Glenn Yarbrough and The Limeliters Chicago Tapes I and II


Year Title Peak chart positions Record Label B-side Album
1957 "Here We Go, Baby" Elektra Records "All My Sorrows" Songs by Glenn Yarbrough
1964 "San Francisco Bay Blues" RCA Victor Records "The Honey Wind Blows" Time to Move On
"Jenny's Gone and I Don't Care" "An Acre of Gal to a Foot of Ground" Let the World Go By
1965 "Baby the Rain Must Fall" 12 2 "I've Been to Town" Baby the Rain Must Fall
"It's Gonna Be Fine" 54 9 "She"
"Ain't No Way" "You Can't Ever Go Home Again"
1966 "The Lonely Things" "Channing Way 2" The Lonely Things
"Spin Spin" "Love Are Wine"
1967 "Gently Here Beside Me" "Golden Under the Sun" For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
"Honey and Wine" "Ain't You Glad You're Livin', Joe" Honey and Wine
1968 "Times Gone By" "Face in the Crowd" The Bitter and the Sweet
"Downtown L.A." Warner Bros. Records "Until You Happened to Pass By" Let Me Choose Life
1969 "Somehow, Someway" "Child of the Night Time"
"(Don't Let the Sun Shine on You) In Tulsa" "Wisconsin"
1970 "Jubilee" "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free"
"Goodbye Girl" 35 Let Me Choose Life


  1. ^ a b Thanki, Juli (August 12, 2016). "Singer Glenn Yarbrough dies at 86". The Tennessean.
  2. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (August 12, 2016). "Glenn Yarbrough, Folk Singer With the Limeliters, Dies at 86". The New York Times. p. A14.
  3. ^ "Singles Chart". Cashbox. March 27, 1965. ISSN 0008-7289.
  4. ^ "Broadcasters Census Committee of Eighty". 1980 Census Update (Supplement to Data User News). No. 13. U.S. Census Bureau. January 1980. p. 7.
  5. ^ From the album Joy Across the Land, by Glenn Yarbrough and the Limeliters (1993)
  6. ^ Mafia III trailer on YouTube
  7. ^ Lang, Derrik J. (August 12, 2016). "Limeliters folk singer Glenn Yarbrough dies at 86". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.

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