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Jackie Rae

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Famed in his native Canada as host of his own CBC television variety showcase, Jackie Rae is better known throughout the rest of the world as a composer, writing such pop perennials as "Please Don't Go" and "Happy Heart." Born in Winnipeg, Alberta, on May 14, 1922, Rae began his professional career at age three, joining siblings Grace and Saul in the Three Raes of Sunshine, a song-and-dance act that toured the Canadian vaudeville circuit. The children also were fixtures of producer Jack Arthur's variety spotlights at Toronto's Shea Theatre. Rae was working as a talent scout when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943. Upon returning from war duty, he went to work as a CBC radio producer, helming series headlined by comedians Wayne and Shuster as well as singer Gisele MacKenzie. After four years as head of the CBC's radio and television division, in 1956 Rae stepped in front of the camera as star of TV's The Jackie Rae Show, which aired for two seasons before he relocated to London, where he hosted the BBC television series Jackie Rae Presents and Sunday Night at the Palladium. Rae also signed as a recording artist with Philips/Fontana, issuing singles including "Summer Place," "The Moon Got in My Eyes," and "Day by Day" and in 1961 headlining a command performance at the Victoria Palace. Rae nevertheless enjoyed greater success as a songwriter than as a singer. In partnership with Les Reed, he co-authored Engelbert Humperdinck's "When There's No You" and Tony Bennett's "Dream Just a Dream," and with James Last wrote "Happy Heart," an oft-covered tune most closely associated with Andy Williams. Even more notable: "Please Don't Go," the 1969 Eddy Arnold smash that earned ASCAP's award for country song of the year. Upon returning to Toronto in 1976, Rae founded his own publishing firm, Jar Music, and was appointed executive producer of the Canadian Talent Library, a non-profit trust dedicated to producing music by Canadian artists. In 1981 he teamed with trumpeter Micky Erbe and trombonist Laurie Bower to form the Spitfire Band, a traditional big band that issued a series of LPs for Columbia. Rae was awarded the Order of Canada in 2002 for his contributions to the national radio and television industries. He died at his Toronto home on October 5, 2006. ~ Jason Ankeny

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