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-roommate 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. 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 movieSwing 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 Landmovie and their My Little Ponyseries, 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).
Lorraine always kept singing: she was featured on the Dick Tracysoundtrack (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.
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 herSuch Sweet Thunder CD came out, a dozen Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn classics with her added lyrics. It received a four-star review inDown 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.
Lorraine’s 2008 solo project wasLanguage, 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 2013 nomination for co-writer Shelly Berg’s arrangement of the Feather/BergX Files’ song “Out There.” Lorraine’s third subsequent album to be Grammy-nominated was “Attachments”, a 2014 nominee in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album. Lorraine’s most recent album “Flirting With Disaster”, released in 2015 has also been nominated for a Grammy in the ‘Best Jazz Vocal Album’.
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.