Just about anyone who watches television knows the music of Roy Eaton. His ad jingles are classics of the genre, and if you're not old enough to have seen them aired during their heyday, they can still be seen in reruns on nostalgia networks like TV Land. While catchy product advertisements like the ones he wrote for Texaco ("You can trust your car to the man who wears the star") and Beefaroni ("We're having Beefaroni, it's made with macaroni")Read more paid Eaton's bills, they don't begin to tell his musical story.
Eaton was the offspring of Jamaican immigrants. His mother worked in domestic service and his father worked as a mechanic. He grew up during jazz's glory years in the Harlem community of Sugar Hill. Eaton took up classical piano when he was six. His skillful handling of Chopin brought him the Kosciuszko Foundation's Chopin Award in 1950. Following an education that included the City College of New York, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Zurich, and Yale, he became a music instructor at his Manhattan alma mater.
The pianist and composer almost didn't live to make his mark. In 1957, physicians gave him a 10 percent chance of surviving an automobile accident that left him comatose and took the life of his bride, to whom he'd been wed for less than a year. The shattering experience strengthened his faith. He has since been a devotee of Transcendental Meditation.
He devoted almost three decades to his advertising work, first with the firm of Young & Rubicam during the late '50s and later with Benton & Bowles. His ads for products that included Yuban coffee, Johnson & Johnson, Gulf Oil, and Kent cigarettes garnered numerous awards. Interestingly, the person in charge of deciding whether to accept Eaton's Beefaroni jingle initially did not care for it, but the tune did so well that it ended up serving the client for two decades. Later in life he established Roy Eaton Music Inc., and his company produced ads for Coca Cola, among others.
In 1992, he played at Lincoln Center, and later in the decade he appeared at Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory while traveling with his wife in Vietnam. Since 1995 he has issued several albums, among them the Seventh Wave release Meditative Chopin, the Sony Classical release Joplin Piano Rags, and Newport Classics' Joyful Joplin. Read less