Truly a legend in his own time, well known songwriter and long time Great Neck resident Ervin Drake died l wtwp weeks ago at this Great Neck home. He was 95 years old. For years he was married to Edith Bermaine, the owner of the legendary, long gone Middle Neck Road beauty and nail salon, Bermaine’s.
Drake was especially known for writing the wonderful words and music for the popular song “It Was a Very Good Year,” Initially written for the Kingston Trio in the early ‘60s, when sung by Frank Sinatra several years later, the song hit the top of all of the charts and became a signature song for Sinatra, adding luster to Drake’s already full career. Other well-know Irvin Drake songs are “Good Morning Heartache” and “I Believe.”
Drake’s songs were sung by the top-of-the-chart singers that included Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington, Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Sam Cooke. His soon-familiar tunes turned up on radio, on television and in the movie theaters. His songs carried an unique versatility and a popular appeal.
Drake also wrote for Broadway. He wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway edition of What Makes Sammy Run? that starred popular singer Steve Lawrence.
At one point in his career Drake was the founding president of the American Guild of Authors and Composers, which today is known as the Songwriters Guild of America. In 1983 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Drake’s testimony before Congress is single handedly responsible for the doubling of royalty payments to composers and lyricists of all U.S.A. copyrighted music and lyrics.
Before beginning his songwriting career, Drake had a very brief foray in home furnishing sales.
Drake was born to Jewish immigrant parents who had fled Eastern Europe for the United States, ending up in New York.
According to his son Jed Berman, Drake died of complications from bladder cancer.
Friends and family tell how Drake remained an active songwriter right up until his death last week.
Besides his wife, Edith, he is survived by two children from his first marriage.
For Jed Berman, he will always remember his father’s words: “You have to ready when the band starts to play.”
Ervin Drake was always ready!