Gerry Rafferty has died at the age of 63 after a long illness. I can only say what I feel…that he will be sadly missed and that we should remember him for his greatness and not forget the many living legends who are still alive today who, like Gerry, get cast into obscurity without a thought, a harsh truth but true!
Rafferty was born on April 16 1947 into a working-class family at Paisley and grew up in a council house on the town’s Glenburn estate. He was educated at St Mirin’s Academy.
His Irish-born father was a heavy-drinking miner and lorry driver who died when Rafferty was 16. Inspired by his Scottish mother, who had taught him Irish and Scottish folk songs as a boy, and heavily influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, the young Rafferty started to write his own material.
In 1963 Rafferty left St Mirin’s Academy and worked in a butcher’s shop and, later, as a civil service clerk. At weekends, he and a schoolfriend, Joe Egan, played in a local group, The Mavericks. At a dancehall in 1965, Gerry met his future wife, apprentice hairdresser Carla Ventilla. She was 15, from an Italian Clydebank family.
In the mid-60s, Rafferty earned money busking on the London Underground. Later, after working with Billy Connolly in a band called The Humblebums, he recorded a first solo album, Can I Have My Money Back. In 1972, Rafferty and Joe Egan formed Stealers Wheel, a group which was beset by legal wranglings, but did have a huge hit “Stuck in the Middle” (which was used in the 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs) and the smaller top 40 hit “Star” ten months later. The duo disbanded in 1975. In 1966 Gerry and Joe had released a single, “Benjamin Day”/”There’s Nobody Here” (Columbia 8068), as members of The Fifth Column.
In 1978, Gerry Rafferty cut a solo album, City to City, which included the song with which he remains most identified, “Baker Street”. The single reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 in the U.S. The album sold over 5.5 million copies, toppling the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the U.S. on 8 July 1978. “Baker Street” features a “glistening” saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft which remains a mainstay of soft-rock radio airplay. In October 2010 the song was recognised by the BMI for notching up over 5 million plays worldwide. Stuck in the Middle With You has achieved over 4 million plays worldwide, and Right Down The Line has achieved over 3 million plays.
Also from City to City, “Home and Dry” managed a #28 spot in the US Top 40 in early 1979. “Right Down the Line” is the third track from the 1978 album City to City. The song made #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts in the U.S., making this the only Rafferty song to ever reach #1 on any U.S or U.K chart. It remained atop the adult contemporary chart for four nonconsecutive weeks. One of the more obscure tracks from that time is “Big Change in the Weather” (the B-side of “Baker Street”). His next album, Night Owl, also did well with the help of guitarist Richard Thompson performing on the track “Take The Money and Run”, and the title track was a UK No. 5 hit in 1979. “Days Gone Down” reached #17 in the U.S. The follow-up single “Get It Right Next Time” made the UK & US Top 40.
Subsequent albums, such as Snakes and Ladders (1980), Sleepwalking (1982), and North and South (1988), fared less well, perhaps due partly to Rafferty’s general reluctance to perform live. “Don’t Give Up On Me”, from his 1992 collection On a Wing and a Prayer, is a much-featured oldie on BBC Radio 2. That album reunited him with Stealers Wheel partner Joe Egan on several tracks. Rafferty redid his own “Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway” on the album Over My Head (1994). Another World, released in 2000, was originally available only by direct order via his no longer active website but is now available on the Hypertension label. Another World featured an album cover illustrated by John Byrne ‘Patrick’, who also illustrated the covers for Can I Have My Money Back?, City to City, Night Owl, and Snakes and Ladders, as well as all three Stealers Wheel albums.
Rafferty also contributed to the soundtrack to the film, Local Hero with the song “The Way It Always Starts” (1983), and co-produced The Proclaimers’ first UK hit single, “Letter from America”, in 1987 with Hugh Murphy. In 2009, Rafferty released Life Goes On, again on Hypertension. This album features a mixture of new recordings, covers of Christmas carols and traditional songs that had previously been available as downloads on his web site, and edited tracks from his previous three albums.
Remember the man for his glories and what he did!
Rest in Peace Gerry!
Who hasn’t danced to this?
Gerry Rafferty Shipyard Town (1988) from North & South introduced to me by my good friend Alan O’Leary of Copperplate!
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