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Eddie Money dead, rep says; LI-raised rocker was 70

Eddie Money performs during the iHeart80s Party

 Eddie Money performs during the iHeart80s Party on Jan. 28, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. Credit: Getty Images for iHeartMedia / Tim Mosenfelder

Eddie Money, the hard-rocking singer-songwriter from Plainedge known for such hits as "Baby Hold On," "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Take Me Home Tonight," died Friday morning after recently announcing his diagnosis of esophageal cancer. He was 70.

“The Money Family regrets to announce that Eddie passed away peacefully early this morning," according to a statement from the singer's family. "We cannot imagine our world without him. We are grateful that he will live on forever through his music."

Money, known as a proud Long Islander despite adopting California as his home state, was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

"He's the purest example of a Long Island artist, from his story to his music to his attitude," said Jim Faith, a Hall of Fame co-founder. "You could just tell every time he got on stage and started talking to the audience: That guy's from Long Island."

Money lived a quintessential rock and roll life. As his star rose, his partying grew so intense that one night of drugs and drinking — in which he snorted phenobarbital thinking it was cocaine — put him in a near-catatonic state and left him unable to walk for nearly a year. He sang about the event on his 1982 album, "No Control."

Money wouldn't join a 12-step program until 2001. “I got so high in the ’70s and ’80s, my whole life is still an acid flashback,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1996 interview. “I get up in the morning, smoke a cigarette and see paisley.”

Nevertheless, Money became a steady hitmaker and an MTV fixture throughout the 1980s. His 1986 song "Take Me Home Tonight," which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, also launched a comeback for Ronnie Spector, who appeared on the track interpolating her group The Ronettes' 1963 hit "Be My Baby." Money also scored big with 1988's "Walk on Water" and 1989's "The Love in Your Eyes," among others.

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Though the hits started drying up in the 1990s, Money never left the spotlight completely. He toured regularly, played himself on the television sitcom "King of Queens" and gamely appeared in a GEICO commercial as a travel agent who belts out "Two Tickets to Paradise." That song became the title of a musical play based on his early life that premiered at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center in 2009. Money and his family also launched a reality television show, "Real Money," for AXS TV in 2018.

A longtime smoker, Money revealed his cancer diagnosis in an AXS TV news release in late August. At the time, there were plans to chronicle his treatment on the show's upcoming season.

Before his diagnosis, Money had been working on a new album, according to Joe Rock, the midday host at classic rock radio station WBAB/102.3 FM. "The last time I spoke to Eddie was just a few months ago and he had so much stuff coming," said Rock. "You could hear in his voice he was so excited."

Edward Joseph Mahoney was born March 21, 1949, in Brooklyn, the son of an NYPD officer. Following a two-year stint in a police training program, Money moved to Berkeley, California, to pursue a musical career. He adopted the stage name Money partly as a wry joke — he never seemed to have any. His fortune changed, however, after a performance at a talent show at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco led to a record deal with Columbia.

"Two Tickets to Paradise," the lead single from Money's 1977 eponymous debut album, began earning airplay even before the album's release, according to Michael "Eppy" Epstein, owner of the Roslyn nightclub My Father's Place. On the strength of that early buzz, Epstein booked Money into the club, where roughly 150 people turned out to see an early performance by the newcomer.

"The show was great, and he was very nice," Epstein recalled. "And that's the last time he played My Father's Place, because he got too big."

Written as a hard-rocking love-letter to a skeptical girlfriend, "Two Tickets to Paradise" remained one of Money's favorite songs even into his later years. "It's saying I can offer you something better. I also like it because it's saying that I've got a ticket to ride, and everybody's coming with me," Money told the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sunday News in 2009. "I like that sentiment a lot. And even with everything that's happened to me, if I had to pick a theme for my life, that [song] would be it."

Money did manage the rare rock achievement of a long-term marriage, more than 30 years to Laurie Harris, who would say that at first she confused him with John Mellencamp. The Moneys had five children, Zachary, Jessica, Joseph, Desmond and Julian.

With AP

Eddie Money's Greatest Hits

"Baby Hold On" (1978)

"Two Tickets to Paradise" (1978)

"Maybe I'm a Fool" (1979)

"Think I'm in Love" (1982)

"Take Me Home Tonight" (1986, with Ronnie Spector)

"I Wanna Go Back" (1987)

"Walk on Water" (1988)

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