I was saddened recently to read of the death of Gerry Rafferty, the Scottish singer/songwriter who enjoyed massive chart success in the late Seventies with hits such as ‘Baker Street’, ‘Right Down The Line’, and ‘Night Owl’.
While I wasn’t a great fan of his music at the time, it would be churlish of me not to recognise that he was one of the very best of his generation when it came to making radio-friendly soft rock, and I can’t deny that Rafferty’s music – whether it be with Stealers Wheel or as a solo artist – did help soundtrack my high school years by dint of being one of commercial radio’s most reliable “go to” guys.
I read somewhere recently that ‘Baker Street’ royalties earned Rafferty around £80,000 annually (though I’m not sure how accurate that is) but try as he might, he never again found the formula to repeat the global chart success that ‘Baker Street’ gave him in 1978. Sure he had a few more hits and a couple of very good albums but ‘Baker Street’ raised the bar to such an extent that every subsequent release would only ever be measured against it.
Paisley-born Rafferty initially made his name as a folk singer of some repute alongside (future comic/superstar) Billy Connolly in a group called The Humblebums, before Connolly decided to concentrate on making people laugh, and Rafferty went on to form Stealers Wheel with an old school friend, Joe Egan.
Stealers Wheel struck gold in 1972 with ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ but ultimately Rafferty was destined to follow the path of several of his Scottish contemporaries – see Rod Stewart, Al Stewart, Frankie Miller – by going it alone as a singer/songwriter ... and the rest, as they say, is history ...
What was especially sad about Rafferty’s death was that, like so many in the field of popular music, it came way too early, at just 63, due to liver failure ... which, of course, is another way of saying “alcoholism”.
Relationship problems, followed by divorce, depression, public notoriety, paranoia, and ultimately a futile search to recreate the heights of his brief – but very real and intense – brush with stardom proved to be a lethal cocktail when Rafferty added his own poison of choice to the mix.
It’s an all too familiar story, yet no less poignant, ironic, or sad because of that.
"There have been periods in my life where I have experienced depression ... it has been through some of my darkest moments that I have written some of my best songs. For me, singing and writing is very therapeutic ... my main ambition is to continue to write music, which helps me to evolve in a spiritual sense and hopefully to inspire others."
(Daily Express – ‘Gerry Rafferty Is Back On A New Platform’, 22 November 2009)