Obituary: Gerry Rafferty
Obituary by Jack Foley
SCOTTISH singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, best known for the anthemic single Baker Street, has died at the age of 63 after suffering a long illness.
He died peacefully at home, with his daughter Martha at his bedside, according to a statement.
Born in Paisley on April 16, 1947, Rafferty was the third son of Mary Skeffington and Joseph Rafferty and grew up in a council house on the town’s Glenburn estate.
He was educated at St Mirin’s Academy but suffered an often difficult childhood by virture of the fact that his Irish-born father was an abusive alcoholic, as well as a miner and lorry driver, who died when Rafferty was just 16.
He became inspired instead by his Scottish mother, who taught him Irish and Scottish folk songs as a boy, and was also heavily influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
As a result, Rafferty took up songwriting from an early age and began his musical career as a busker on the London Underground.
In 1966, Rafferty became a member of a pop group called The Fifth Column along with future Stealers Wheel collaborator Joe Egan but although they released a single it did not become a hit and they soon disappeared.
Three years later, though, Rafferty became the third member of folk-pop duo The Humblebums, which featured a young Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey.
Harvey left shortly afterwards but Rafferty and Connolly stayed together and went on to record two acclaimed albums for Transatlantic Records. It marked the start of one of the most successful periods in Rafferty’s career.
In 1971, after Connolly and Rafferty went their separate ways, Transatlantic owner Nathan Joseph signed Rafferty as a solo performer and he recorded his first solo album, the critically acclaimed Can I Have My Money Back?.
Although it was not a commercial success, Rafferty’s star was rising and in 1972 he and Joe Egan formed Stealers Wheel, a group which enjoyed the huge hit Stuck In The Middle despite suffering numerous legal wrangles.
Stuck In The Middle has since been revived by Quentin Tarantino for the soundtrack to Reservoir Dogs and it was one two songs that Rafferty remains synonymous with.
The other, Baker Street, was recorded following the break-up of Stealers Wheel in 1975 and the creation of Rafferty’s second solo album, City to City in 1978.
The single reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 in the US, and helped the album to sell over 5.5 million copies. It toppled the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the US.
Thereafter, he recorded the albums Snakes and Ladders (1980), Sleepwalking (1982) and North and South (1988), but they performed less well, perhaps due in part to Rafferty’s reluctance to perform live.
Rafferty did, however, continue to record and further highlights of his career included a contribution to the soundtrack of Local Hero, co-producing The Proclaimers’ first UK hit single, Letter From America with Hugh Murphy, and a new version of his Humblebums song Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway, which appeared on the album Over My Head in 1994.
Most recently, in 2009, Rafferty released Life Goes On, a collection of new recordings, covers of Christmas carols and traditional songs that had previously been available as downloads on his website.
But during his later years, he had also become addicted to alcohol and was revealed by The Guardian newspaper in 2009 to have “battled alcoholism for years”.
In November 2010, Rafferty was admitted to a hospital in Bournemouth, Dorset, suffering from liver failure.
He died at home on January 4, 2011, of liver disease.
He is survived by his daughter, Martha
Leading the tributes, former band-mate Billy Connolly said in a statement that Rafferty was “a hugely talented songwriter and singer who will be greatly missed”.
He added: “I was privileged to have spent my formative years working with Gerry and there remained a strong bond of friendship between us that lasted until his untimely death.
“Gerry had extraordinary gifts and his premature passing deprives the world of a true genius.”