Lorraine Feather was born in Manhattan. Her parents named her Billie Jane Lee Lorraine after godmother Billie Holiday, her mother Jane formerly a big band singer, her mother’s ex room-mate Peggy Lee, and the song “Sweet Lorraine.” She is the daughter of the late jazz writer Leonard Feather. The Feathers moved to L.A. when Lorraine was 12 at 18, after two years as a theatre arts major at L.A. City College, she returned to New York to pursue an acting career.
Listen to “Waiting Tables”
Some touring, off-Broadway work and the Broadway show Jesus Christ Superstar followed, interspersed with countless waitressing jobs up and down Manhattan’s West Side. Frequently out of work, and discouraged by more than one restaurateur from pursuing a career in the food service industry, Lorraine decided to try singing. She began working with various jazz and Top 40 bands in and around New York. She sang backup for Petula Clark and Grand Funk Railroad, and finally put her own act together, eventually moving back to L.A., where she sang at local jazz clubs. Soon after, she joined producer Richard Perry’s vocal trio Full Swing and recorded three albums with the group.
Lorraine wrote lyrics for most of the songs on these releases, some for classic pieces like Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” The Yellowjackets’ “Ballad of the Whale” and Horace Henderson’s “Big John’s Special” (later heard in the movie Swing Shift). Full Swing was featured on Barry Manilow’s Swing Street album and TV special singing the Feather/Eddie Arkin song “Big Fun.” When Full Swing dissolved, Lorraine focused mainly on writing. Songs with her lyrics were recorded by artists such as Patti Austin, Phyllis Hyman, Djavan, David Benoit, Kenny Rankin and Diane Schuur. Cleo Laine recorded four tracks of Lorraine’s versions of Ellington instrumentals.
Lorraine has written lyrics for the Disney TV show Dinosaurs with Ray Colcord and the PBS show Make Way for Noddy with Terry Sampson. Her work with Mark Watters includes the MGM animated film Babes in Toyland, the Disney video Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween, Hasbro’s Candy Land movie and their My Little Pony series, as well as the touring stage show My Little Pony—The World’s Biggest Tea Party. Lorraine and Mark also wrote opening title themes for All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Lionhearts, and the piece “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” performed by opera singer Jessye Norman in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Lorraine wrote lyrics for the Disney feature films The Jungle Book 2 with Paul Grabowsky and Joel McNeely and The Princess Diaries 2 with Larry Grossman. With Jessye Norman and Mark Watters in Atlanta Lorraine always kept singing: she was featured on the Dick Tracy soundtrack with Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne of The Manhattan Transfer, the soundtrack album for Bette Midler’s For the Boys, and keyboardist Terry Trotter’s Sweeney Todd in Jazz.
In the late ’90s, Lorraine decided to try creating material for herself to record as a solo artist. Her first project, The Body Remembers, was released in March of 1997 on the Bean Bag label; it was an offbeat electronic album, featuring various co-writers including Tony Morales, Terry Sampson, Joe Curiale, Yutaka, Don Grusin, and Eddie Arkin. Some of the album’s musical guests were Russ Freeman, David Benoit and Brandon Fields.
The Fats Waller project
In 1999, Lorraine began putting together an album of Fats Waller piano solos with her lyrics and vocals. The album featured Dick Hyman, Mike Lang and Fats Waller himself, in sampled form, on piano. It was released in July of 2001 on Rhombus Records, received glowing reviews, and was played on 150+ radio stations nationwide. Lorraine’s next three CDs were released on Sanctuary. She completed Cafe Society in the summer of 2002; this was a compilation of original songs in a classic jazz motif, with music by Duke Ellington, Johnny Mandel, Don Grusin, Eddie Arkin, Russell Ferrante and David Benoit. In 2003 her Such Sweet Thunder CD came out, a dozen Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn classics with her added lyrics. It received a four-star review in Down Beat and a description of “pure genius” from Jazz Times. Dooji Wooji, another retro album in the “small big band” style and including three previously unreleased Ellington adaptations, was released in early 2005.
Red carpet arrival, 2014 GRAMMY Awards
Lorraine’s 2008 solo project was Language, which came out in April of that year on the Colorado label Jazzed Media. The songs were written with contemporary composers Shelly Berg, Russell Ferrante, Bill Elliott, Eddie Arkin, Michael B. Nelson, Terry Sampson and Tony Morales. Language was the #1-selling jazz CD on Amazon the month after its release.
Her 2010 release was Ages. It featured songs with her lyrics, as always, and music by Arkin, Berg, Ferrante, Dick Hyman and Béla Fleck. Ages was on all three jazz airplay charts consistently for several months, and reached the #2 spot in its category for Amazon downloads. It brought Lorraine her first (2011) Grammy nomination, in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category. Her next release, a Gothic collection of fables entitled Tales of the Unusual, earned a 2012 nomination for co-writer Shelly Berg’s arrangement of the Feather/Berg X Files song “Out There.” Lorraine’s 2013 release, Attachments, was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her fourth and fifth nominations (Best Jazz Vocal Album, and Shelly Berg’s arrangement of “Be My Muse”) came in 2015, for Flirting with Disaster.
Steph and Lorraine
Lorraine is part of a duo called Nouveau Stride with the phenomenal young stride pianist Stephanie Trick. The two women released an album entitled Fourteen at the end of 2012, and continue to perform together with a multi-media show that includes projected lyrics and a piano-cam.
You’re Outa Here
Lorraine has made several self-produced videos to accompany her CDs. In 2008 she produced a fully-animated short film of one of her Fats Waller adaptations, “You’re Outa Here” (based on Waller’s “The Minor Drag”), directed by “the quintessential independent American animator” George Griffin. You’re Outa Here played at 35 festivals internationally in 2009, and won several awards, including Best Music Video at the South Beach International Animation Festival. The cartoon is also part of the Nouveau Stride show.
Almost a decade ago, Lorraine and her longtime co-writer Eddie Arkin were asked by Warren Beatty to create a song for his long-gestating Howard Hughes film, which came out in November of 2016. Their song, “The Rules Don’t Apply,” was sung by Lily Collins in the movie, was used four times, and became the film’s title (Rules Don’t Apply). It received a Critics’ Choice Award nomination, as well as one from HMMA (the Hollywood Music in Media awards).