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BAKER STREET - GERRY RAFFERTY - (1978)

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Published on Jan 4, 2014

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Gerald "Gerry" Rafferty (16 April 1947 -- 4 January 2011) was a Scottish singer-songwriter best known for his solo hits "Baker Street" and "Right Down the Line", and with the band Stealers Wheel, "Stuck in the Middle with You". Rafferty was born into a working-class family in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. His mother taught him both Irish and Scottish folk songs as a boy; later, he was influenced by the music of The Beatles and Bob Dylan. He joined the folk-pop group The Humblebums in 1969. After they disbanded in 1971, he recorded his first solo album, Can I Have My Money Back? Rafferty and Joe Egan formed the group Stealers Wheel in 1972, producing several hits, most notably "Stuck in the Middle with You". In 1978, he recorded his second solo album, City to City, which included "Baker Street", his most popular song.

City to City


Legal issues after the break-up of Stealers Wheel meant that, for three years, Rafferty was unable to release any material. After the disputes were resolved in 1978, he recorded his second solo album, City to City, with producer Hugh Murphy, which included the song with which he remains most identified, "Baker Street". According to Murphy, interviewed by Billboard in 1993, he and Rafferty had to beg the record label, United Artists, to release "Baker Street" as a single: "They actually said it was too good for the public. It was a good call: the single reached #3 in the UK and #2 in the US. The album sold over 5.5 million copies, toppling the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the US on 8 July 1978. Rafferty considered this his first proper taste of success, as he told Melody Maker the following year: "...all the records I've ever done before have been flops. Stealers Wheel was a flop. 'Can I Have My Money Back?' was a flop. The Humblebums were a flop... My life doesn't stand or fall by the amount of people who buy my records. "Baker Street" featured a distinctive saxophone solo played by Raphael Ravenscroft, although the origins of the solo have been disputed. As the singer recalled in a 1988 interview with Colin Irwin: "When I wrote the song I saw that bit as an instrumental part but I didn't know what. We tried electric guitar but it sounded weak, and we tried other things and I think it was Hugh Murphy's suggestion that we tried saxophone.

Alcoholism

Rafferty had always enjoyed alcohol, and early songs, such as "One Drink Down", "Baker Street", and "Night Owl", freely mention the subject. He told friends that his alcoholism dated back to his childhood, though even people close to him had no idea how it would come to dominate his life. Martha Rafferty believes her father started drinking heavily to cope with the pressures of playing on stage, but says his problem "wasn't obvious" for many years. According to Michael Gray, the singer's personal manager in the early 1980s: "It never occurred to me in all the time I knew him that he was heading for alcoholism. Maybe I should have realised, but I didn't. I'm unsure whether he did. As the 1980s progressed, Rafferty's growing drinking problem placed his marriage under impossible strain and his wife divorced him in 1990, though they remained close. In 1995, Rafferty was deeply affected by the death of his older brother Joseph, an event from which family and friends have said he never fully recovered.

Death

In November 2010, Rafferty was admitted to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital where he was put on a life-support machine and treated for multiple organ failure. After being taken off life support, Rafferty rallied for a short time, and it seemed that he might recover. Rafferty died at his daughter Martha's home in Stroud, Gloucestershire on 4 January 2011, of liver failure. A Requiem Mass was held for Rafferty at St Mirin's Cathedral in his native town of Paisley on Friday 21 January 2011. The service was streamed live over the Internet. Politicians in attendance were the First Minister of Scotland the Right Honorable Alex Salmond MSP, Wendy Alexander MSP, Hugh Henry MSP, and Robin Harper MSP. The musicians present included Craig and Charlie Reid of The Proclaimers, former bandmates Joe Egan and Rab Noakes, Barbara Dickson, and Graham Lyle. The eulogy was given by Rafferty's longtime friend John Byrne. His remains were then cremated at the Woodside Crematorium in Paisley and his ashes scattered on the island of Iona. He is survived by his daughter, granddaughter Celia and brother Jim.

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