Guardian – By James Meikle
Singer-songwriter behind Stuck in the Middle with You and Baker Street endured battles with music industry and alcohol
The singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, whose songs such as Stuck in the Middle with You, Baker Street and Get it Right Next Time soundtracked the 1970s, has died aged 63 after a long illness.
His family said he died at home peacefully with his daughter Martha this morning.
The Scot was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, played with Billy Connolly’s folk outfit the Humblebums, and co-founded the soft-rock group Stealer’s Wheel, before enjoying a successful solo career. Baker Street, released in 1978, was still netting him £80,000 a year more than 30 years later.
Rafferty endured battles with the music industry – once taking three years to disentangle contracts – and a problem with alcohol. When he was a child his mother would drag him round the streets of Glasgow, rather than risk his suffering violence at the hands of his Irish-born father, who would often come home drunk.
Although sure of his own abilities, Rafferty was fearful of working with stars such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. On occasion his drinking would lead him to smashing cases of expensive wine.
He divorced from his wife Carla – who he met at a dancehall when she was 15 and married five years later – in 1990. She said: “There was no hope. I would never have left him if there’d been a glimmer of a chance of him recovering.”
Rafferty, having once owned a Kent farm and a home in Hampstead, moved to California to be near Martha, before moving to Ireland in 2008 and later Dorset.
In recent years, he was better known for alcohol-fuelled incidents, apparent disappearances and poor health than for his music. His last album, Another World, was released in 2000.
In 1963 he left St Mirin’s Academy and worked in a butcher’s shop and at the tax office. 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 1972, Rafferty and his old school friend Joe Egan formed Stealers Wheel, a group which was beset by legal wranglings, but did have a huge hit “Stuck in the Middle With You” (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.
In August 2008, the newspaper Scotland on Sunday reported that Rafferty had been asked to leave the Westbury Hotel in London and had then checked himself into St Thomas’ Hospital suffering from a chronic liver condition. The same report claimed that on 1 August 2008, Rafferty had disappeared, leaving his belongings behind, and that the hospital had filed a missing persons report. However no such missing persons report existed.
On 17 February 2009, The Guardian reported that Rafferty, “who has battled alcoholism for years”, was in hiding in the south of England, being cared for by a friend. Subsequently, Rafferty’s spokesperson Paul Charles told The Independent newspaper that he had been in touch with Rafferty two weeks previously and that he was alive and well but had no plans to either record or tour.
This was then contradicted by a further report in The Daily Telegraph on the following day which quoted from a statement by his solicitors issued to Channel 4 news: “Contrary to reports, Gerry is extremely well and has been living in Tuscany for the last six months……he continues to compose and record new songs and music……and he hopes to release a new album of his most recent work in the summer of this year ”. The album, titled Life Goes On, was released in November 2009.
In November 2010, Rafferty was admitted to a hospital in Bournemouth, Dorset, suffering from liver failure. His family was told that there was little chance of his survival, although after he was taken off life support, his condition began to improve. Rafferty died on 4 January 2011.
|Year||Title||U.S. Chart||UK Albums Chart||RIAA
|1972||Can I Have My Money Back||—||—||—||—|
|1978||City to City||1||6||Platinum||Gold|
|1980||Snakes and Ladders||61||15||—||Silver|
|1988||North and South||—||43||—||—|
|1993||On a Wing and a Prayer||—||73||—||—|
|1994||Over My Head||—||—||—||—|
|1974||Gerry Rafferty (mainly The Humblebums recordings)||—||—||—||—|
|1995||One More Dream: The Very Best of Gerry Rafferty||—||17||—||—|
|2006||Days Gone Down: The Anthology: 1970–1982||—||—||—||—|
|2009||Life Goes On||—||—||—||—|
Updated Photos – end – ;(