Feature: Cabaret And Concert Community Mourns Ralph Lampkin

Special guest correspondent Marilyn Lester reflects on passing of beloved publicist and producer.

By: Jul. 10, 2023
Feature: Cabaret And Concert Community Mourns Ralph Lampkin
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In Memoriam Ralph Lampkin (April 29, 1957 – June 24, 2023)

By Marilyn Lester

When publicist/promotions guru, music producer and vocalist Ralph Lampkin, Jr. died early in the morning on June 24, the news spread quickly on social media. His sudden, massive heart attack and subsequent death became a shocking, seismic event. The comments came in quickly and shared the common theme of tragic loss.

Tributes on his Facebook page read: “A diamond.” “A gem of a guy.” “A dear sweet man.” “A kind and generous man.”  “One of the nicest people I’ve met,” and so on. These words were not hyperbole. They were honest and true—just like Ralph. Of him, singer-songwriter, Amanda McBroom, a friend and client, said, “Ralph Lampkin was an extraordinary man… kind of heart, passionate about music, a true aficionado of the world of cabaret. He helped so many of us  with his loving support and his marketing skills. I will miss him always. And am honored to know he was a beloved friend.” She speaks for so many who knew Ralph. 

And it was no doubt like that from his birth, that gentleness and kindness. As a New Yorker born and bred, Ralph early on wanted to perform. His desire was to attended the fabled High School of Performing Arts, but his father wouldn’t allow it. Fearing his son would be eaten alive in that competitive atmosphere, he declared to Ralph “you’re too soft-hearted.” Instead he went to the New York School of Printing and Journalism, where he learned to write about music. 

Born to Ralph Lampkin, Sr. and Betty Jane Lampkin, Ralph and his siblings Lisa, Mark and Craig, lived in the City and were exposed to culture from film to theatre, concerts, dance and more. He tool violin lessens as a child and taught himself piano. Eventually, his parents moved to the Bronx and Ralph began singing in a noted Bronx chorus of the day. During high school he moved back to Manhattan, living with his grandfather. After graduation, he launched his own singing career. 

In 1979 Chicago pianist Rocky Rockhold caught one of Ralph's shows while visiting NYC. He urged Ralph to give Chicago a try and he did, moving there in 1981. It didn’t take long for Ralph to decide to broaden his horizons. He began producing records, acting as a consultant for performers, entering into promotions and publicity and producing. He founded Lampkin Music Group in 1988. His list of clients began to grow and included a roster of important names. Among them were Tony winners Donna McKechnie, Alice Ripley and Hinton Battle; Grammy winning singer-songwriter Marsha Malamet; Golden Globe and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter McBroom; songwriter Michele Brourman; and Broadway and cabaret stars Karen Mason, Charles Busch and Michael McAssey. 
Reaching out on their behalf (and for many others), Ralph extended his network of media contacts on a national basis. NiteLife Exchange publisher, Scott Barbarino, who knew Ralph well , said, “ My working relationship of many years with Ralph Lampkin was from a different perspective than many who were performers lucky enough to be his clients and of course his friend, because that’s how Ralph worked it—he was everyone’s friend. I can tell you without question that he at all times championed his clients working tirelessly to promote the artists and the music he loved. He was the consummate mensch in every way.”

A keen jazz lover, Ralph also worked with Spider Saloff, Tom Michael and Beckie Menzie, Bob Dorough, Sheila Jordan, saxophonist-singer Danny Lerman, Joanie Pallatto, Josie Falbo, Devin Richards and Martha Lorin, among many others. He worked with co-owners of Southport Records, pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow and vocalist Joanie Pallatto for four decades. Sparrow was impressed that Ralph was “one of the only people who knew that jazz and cabaret were the same thing.” "Ralph Lampkin showed his love and support for me in so many ways,” said Pallatto. “In the recording studio or at a performance, he would easily come to tears with overwhelming love and appreciation. His passion for all the artists he represented was never ending, always promoting and celebrating the work of others like it was his own.”

In his personal life, Ralph met South Bend artist and hairdresser Lawrence "Beau" Bilenki, in July 1985, eventually moving to Indiana in 1989. The two opened a combination art gallery and hair salon; Ralph characteristically became deeply involved with the arts scene of his new location, including producing benefits for the Fire House Theater, Morris Civic Auditorium and the South Bend Public Library. He also took on the unpaid role of Fire Arts Board President in 2010, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to the creation and appreciation of the three dimensional arts of sculpture, pottery and jewelry." 

Lampkin is also featured in the Who's Who In Entertainment and the British Who's Who lists, and was a member of ASCAP, NARAS and the Jazz Journalist Association.

In remembering Ralph Lampkin, a word that comes up frequently is passion, especially for talent. Additionally, others have said: “No one was a better champion; his devotion, enthusiasm, and generosity was legendary; he took joy in helping; Ralph was selfless; he defined the word friend.” As one of his closest friends and colleagues, Maryann Lopinto, said, “I know heaven is a more beautiful place now and I'm sure he's already helping the many friends up there who have gone before.”

These are some of the words and thoughts that define the character of one who died too soon and who will be sorely missed my many, including yours truly.  

Ralph Lampkin is survived by Belenki, his siblings and countless friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Feature: Cabaret And Concert Community Mourns Ralph Lampkin Marilyn Lester is a feature writer/reviewer/editor for the NYCJazzRecord, Editor, reviewer and writer for NiteLifeExchange.com, and a feature writer/reviewer for TheaterPizzazz. She is also the Board VP of the Tin Pan Alley American Popular Music Project and Board Secretary of the American Popular Song Society, as well as a creative producer.

Editor's Note:  While I did not know Ralph Lampkin personally, I worked with him by email on many publicity items for his clients, and always found him to be personable, genuine, and friendly, and nobody could have more passion and devotion to their clients than Ralph exhibited.  I am most grateful to my friend Marilyn Lester for lending her talent, voice, and memories to Broadway World Cabaret in Ralph's honor.  -- SM


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