The Quiet Genius and Second Life of Roy Eaton

New York, N.Y. As I wrote earlier in The Roosevelt Island Daily, my neighbor in our small New York City community, Roy Eaton, has been called “the Jackie Robinson of advertising.” But he’s now on a quieter, more impressive journey.

A child prodigy who played piano at Carnegie Hall and with the Chicago Philharmonic before entering military service during the Korean War, Eaton left his music career behind and broke the color barrier on Madison Avenue, a decade before the era that provides context for television’s Mad Men.

With Young & Rubicam, he created ads and jingles that  stayed in the soundtrack of two generations. Remember, “We’re having Beefaroni. It’s made with macaroni?” That was Roy Eaton.

He also used the emerging modern jazz of the 50s to create campaigns for the likes of Kent Cigarettes with their cutting edge sounding “micronite filter.”

Eventually, his work landed him in the Advertising Hall of Fame.

Back to Music

In his fifties, a legendary career in advertising behind him, Eaton returned to classical music but with a twist.

At thirty-eight, in an attempt to ease pains from an automobile accident, he began a practice in Transcendental Meditation. It not only worked wonders for him, the spirituality it awoke in him rippled changes throughout his being.

When he returned to a solo concert series at Lincoln Center, he played not just the recognizable classics, he played “meditative Chopin.”

Fast forward thirty years and Roy Eaton is holding forth in Bryant Park for a week in the Piano in the Park program. For two hours each day, he plays for lunchtime and leisure crowds while the sounds of the city echo over his keyboard.

In the final segment, he asks his audience not to applaud between numbers, but to be mindful of the silences. (He still has to raise his hand to remind them, twice.)

He pauses to explain how “TM” changed his life and to urge others to check it out.

Not only did it drive away his pain, “It reversed the aging process,” he says.

“I’m eighty-six years old, and I have twin fourteen year olds. The plumbing still works!”

And it’s not just “plumbing.” Listening to the music drifting, lines of song mixing and meshing, out into the park, you know the fingers remain in youthful good shape as well.

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I am a career writer with numerous online and hard copy article on many subjects. Currently, I am the founding editor and publisher of the Roosevelt Island Daily and a contributor to the Stewardship Report, among others.

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