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
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
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
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