Renowned Songwriter, Producer, And Arranger Bob Esty Passes Away
Renowned songwriter, producer, and arranger Bob Esty died on September 27, 2019 in Los Angeles, after a short battle with metastatic cancer. He was 72.
Best known for his hit collaborations with Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand, Bob was behind some of the defining music of the disco era.
Bob's passion was music. Above all else he loved performing with artists and helping them perfect their acts, while always having fun.
Robert Malcolm Esty II was born April 20, 1947 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. A child prodigy, he played the organ in his family's church when he was barely tall enough for his feet to reach the pedals. He won the title Mr. Junior Baltimore as a teenager for performing on a slanted stage and continuing unfazed as his piano rolled downward, smiling the whole time.
After a stint at Baltimore City College, Bob moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1965 to study theater and music at Franklin & Marshall College. He was hired as a musical director for the Armstrong Flooring Company in Lancaster, a position he continued to hold after relocating to New York City in 1969. His first theater gig was as musical director for Lyle, written by Eddie Cantor's daughters, the premiere production at the McAlpin Rooftop Theater. Although the show closed in three days, its ninety-three backers included Dick Cavett and Woody Allen. While in New York, Bob served as musical director for Allee Willis, during her brief performing career before moving to California and writing hit songs for Earth, Wind & Fire, and, later, cowriting the music and lyrics for The Color Purple. Bob also worked with cabaret singer John C. Attle, an original cast member of Fiddler on the Roof; and with Gotham, the first openly gay trio.
In 1974, Bob began his lifetime association with Sally Kellerman, a client of their mutual manager, Rudy Altobelli, who encouraged Bob to relocate to Los Angeles. Once there, he lived in Rudy's guesthouse, on the property where Sharon Tate had been murdered by Charles Manson's "Family" a few years before. After Bob played for Sally when she appeared on The Smothers Brothers Show, the brothers hired Bob to work with their musical guests.
In 1978, Bob became a producer and arranger at Casablanca Records. His first hit was Donna Summer's "Last Dance," which went on to win the Academy Award. Unfortunately, Paul Jabara neglected to include Bob's name as his co-writer. Bob did the arrangements for Summer's Once Upon a Time album, and produced songs and albums by many other Casablanca artists, including Paul Jabara, Brooklyn Dreams (featuring Bruce Sudano, Donna's husband), Patti Brooks, and D.C. LaRue. His work with Cher included her 1979 album, Take Me Home, coproduced with Ron Dante, for which Bob and his writing partner, Michele Aller, wrote most of the songs. The title song was Cher's first chart topper in years.
That same year Bob served as Streisand's vocal coach on "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," her hit duet with Donna Summer, and arranged and produced the title song for Streisand's film The Main Event, having cowritten the song with Bruce Roberts and Paul Jabara. Bob also produced Streisand's hit single "The Main Event/Fight." He went on to coproduce and arrange "I Have Dreamed/We Kiss in the Shadow/Something Wonderful," The King and I medleyon Streisand's 1985 Broadway album. He provided the orchestrations and choir arrangements and conducted the choir for Streisand's 2000/2001 world tours.
Some of the other talented people he worked include Robby Benson, Harry Wayne Casey ("KC" of KC and the Sunshine Band), Ava Cherry, Jeff Stryker, and Roberta Kelly.
Bob is survived by his brother-in-law, Judson Esty-Kendall, his niece Gwyn Esty-Kendall, two nephews, Jud and Luke Esty-Kendall, a two grandnieces, and his loving longtime friends, Dorian Hannaway and Michael S. Place, who supported and cared for him in his final days. His parents, Robert Esty and Barbara Slusher Esty; a sister, Cynthia Esty-Kendall; and a brother, Harvey Esty, predeceased him.