Well, we've lost our first musical celebrity of 2011.
Singer-Songwriter, Gerry Rafferty Dead at 63
5 Jan 2011 03:41 PM
- by Jessica Verderame, Assistant Editor
If you think you’ve never heard of Gerry Rafferty, the singer-songwriter wouldn’t have been surprised, rather, he would’ve probably preferred it that way. Rather, you will recognize his hugely popular songs instead, like “Stuck in the Middle With You” and “Baker Street” which both expressed his loneliness and detestation for the world and industry in which he was involved. Scottish-born Gerry Rafferty has died Tuesday at the age of 63. The cause of death is not yet apparent, though some sources say he was battling ongoing liver and kidney problems, possibly related to alcoholism.
Rafferty was born in 1947 in a town near Glasgow, Scotland to Mary Skeffington, and an Irish miner, Joseph Rafferty. His father, who was an abusive alcoholic, died when Rafferty was 16. He began playing music at a young age with school friends, inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
The singer rose to fame in the 1970s, when he co-wrote the song “Stuck in the Middle With You” while a member of rock group Steelers Wheel, a song that would later be used in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film Reservoir Dogs, which brought the song back into popularity.
However, it was his 1978 album City to City that really launched him into fame; it made No. 1 on charts in the United States, with the track “Baker Street” making Top 10 lists in both the US and Britain. His follow-up album, Night Owl (1979), was also very popular. Though his talent was evident, his success wasn’t close to what it could have been.
However, no one else is at fault for the decline of his success except for himself. In an obituary that Michael Gray, Rafferty’s former manger, wrote for the Guardian that he didn’t like fame, and “..disliked being recognized. But behind an aggressive front, and a strong awareness of his own musical excellence, was fear.”
It was because of this, evidently, that he refused a tour that would have boosted his career dramatically; a tour that involved musical legends Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
According to Gray, his last success was producing the Proclaimers’ hit Letter From America; though he released other albums, they didn’t do as well, and many critics would say that the standards and quality of his work declined over time. After he “spiraled into alcoholism,” his wife, Carla Ventilla, left him in 1990.
Gray quoted her as saying, “He became dangerous at airports…and he’d scream across restaurant tables at me…There was no hope. I would never have left him if there’d been a glimmer of a chance of him recovering.”
After Carla left him, Rafferty moved to California until 2008, when he moved to a rented house in Ireland. He mainly stayed under the radar until August 2008, when hospital management at a five-star hotel in London had him admitted to a hospital after a five day drinking binge on their premises. According to Gray, after the story hit tabloids, it was largely ignored until 2009, when a statement was released that the singer was doing well and living in Tuscany. In the statement, he claimed he was working on new material, but nothing ever came of it.
He died in Dorset, England, and is survived by his daughter, Martha, his granddaughter, Celia, and his brother, Jim.
What one article calls "nothing ever came from it" another lets us know became the album ironically titled Life Goes On. I sampled the title track, and at least his voice hadn't changed a bit. City To City was one of the best albums I ever listened to. I guess it is unfortunate that Gerry never got around to his "dreams about buying some land/give up the booze and the one night stands/ and then he'll settle down/ in some quiet little town/ and forget about everything." And I guess if you play Baker Street in your mind as an autobiography, it makes sense that it would end for him that way.
Gerry and Stealer's Wheel hit #6 with Stuck In The Middle With You (though he'd quit the band just before the album was released); He reached #2 with Baker Street, #12 with Right Down the Line, #28 with Home And Dry, all off City To City; 17 with Days Gone Down, 21 with Get It Right Next Time, and 54 with Royal Mile.