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Tribute to a Paisley Troubadour
by Carl Halling
02/21/13
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The deeply talented Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty (1947-2011) remains best known for his signature tune, Baker Street (1978), as well as a series of hits he enjoyed as one half, along with Joe Egan, of the duo Stealer's Wheel, the most famous of which was Stuck in the Middle from 1972.

He was born - the son of a coal miner and truck driver of Irish extraction and a Scottish mother - in Paisley in the west central Lowlands of Scotland on the 16th of April 1947.

In 1963 he left school, whereupon he is believed to have worked first in a butcher's shop, and then as a clerical worker, while in the midst of the most mythologized decade of recent times he'd play in a Rock band called the Mavericks with former schoolfriend Joe Egan.

At some point, evidently inspired by both the Irish and Scottish folk songs he heard as a boy, and the iconic music of sixties legends the Beatles and Bob Dylan, he began writing his own songs.

In '66, at a time when Rock was arguably seeking emancipation from Pop, Rafferty was a member of the band The Fifth Column, again with Egan, releasing a single which failed to set the Pop charts on fire. Three years later, he hooked up with future comedy legend and actor Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in a folk band called the Humblebums, recording two well received albums with Connolly alone for Transatlantic Records, but they split in 1970.

Rafferty then went on to the first phase of his solo career. While enjoying critical acclaim with the first album released under his own name, Can I Have My Money Back in 1971, commercial success continued to elude him. That is until 1972, when he joined up with his old friend Joe Egan in Stealer's Wheel, who had a hit on both sides of the Atlantic - number 8 in the UK and 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 - with Stuck in the Middle featuring a lead vocal by Egan that seemed to fuse the talents of both Bob Dylan and John Lennon; while Rafferty supplied the harmony.

Stuck in the Middle was followed by two further hits in the shape of Everyone Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine (1973), and the gorgeously melodic Star (1974), featuring stunning harmony work by Rafferty and Egan. But for all their success, they disbanded in 1975, after having only recorded three albums, Stealer's Wheel from 1972, Ferguslie Park from '74 and Right or Wrong from '75. They reformed without Rafferty or Egan in 2008.

Three years later, Rafferty enjoyed his biggest ever hit with the autobiographical Baker Street, widely considered to be a masterpiece and for good reasons, not least the memorable sax solo - written by Rafferty himself - by Raphael Ravenscroft, and Rafferty's own sweetly mournful vocal, to say nothing of touching lyrics evoking both restlessness and hope. It was a massive worldwide success, reaching number 3 on the UK charts, and number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album from which it was taken, City to City, sold over 5.5 million copies, ousting the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever from the American top spot on the 8th of July 1978, and turning Rafferty into a major star in the process.

Further hits from the album followed in the shape of Home and Dry and Right Down the Line, which reached no. 28 and 12 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1979.

Despite his purported discomfort with his new found star status, Rafferty enjoyed further success with the album Night Owl (1979) which yielded several hit singles in both the UK and US, although subsequent albums were less successful, a situation which may have been exacerbated by Rafferty's alleged dislike of performing live. His final album Life Goes On was released in 2009.

He was married to Carla Ventilla between 1970 and 1990, while his later years were marked by a struggle with both depression and alcoholism. In late 2008, he checked himself into St Thomas' Hospital, London, suffering from a chronic liver condition; and some two years later, was admitted to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, passing away at home on the 4th of January 2011 of liver failure. He is survived by his brother Jim, daughter Martha, and granddaughter Celia.

Speaking as a former problem drinker myself who has nonetheless barely touched a drop of alcohol since 1993, the year I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, I feel a very special compassion towards those, such as Gerry Rafferty, who've not been so fortunate as I in terms of conquering a dependence on a drug which is still widely seen as the most dangerous of all.

Such a tragic end; but as in the cases of all gifted artists of renown, Gerry Rafferty's work lives on, with Baker Street especially continuing to serve as intensely poignant testimony of the terrible sense of isolation city life is capable of producing in those who find themselves in London or any other big city, and yet who long to be somewhere else...somewhere they call home.


If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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