Late this afternoon came word from The Guardian that Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty died yesterday from a long kidney-related illness. He was 63. Rafferty, like his father, battled alcoholism for years. Put on life support in November after his kidneys failed, he survived being taken off the machines and returned home, where he died. Reports indicate that his daughter Martha was at his bedside when he died.
With a blend of Jazz, Northern Soul, Rock 'n Roll, and folk, Rafferty's songs were Adult Contemporary radio mainstays throughout the 1970's and 1980's and continue receiving airplay to this day. He began his career busking in the subway and later as a member of The Humblebums, a Glasgow based folk band that contained member Billy Connolly, later a renowned stand-up comic and actor.
Followed shortly by his 1972 solo debut, Can I Have My Money Back, Rafferty and school friend Joe Egan formed Stealers Wheel and released their self-titled album. The album produced by the influential American songwriters and producers Leiber & Stoller, including the hit "Stuck In The Middle." The song reached number 6 on the Billboard Charts in the United States and number 8 in the UK in 1973. Quentin Tarantino resurrected the track for his 1992 film Reservoir Dogs during the famous scene in which Mr. Blonde/Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) turns on the radio and dances to the song before severing police officer Marvin's ear with a straight razor, dousing him in gasoline and making a small trail of the remaining gasoline in front of him.
Stealers Wheel disbanded in 1975 and Rafferty began a successful solo career. Rafferty released his second solo album City To City in 1978 that contained the hits "Baker Street" and "Right Down The Line" sending the album to #1 on the album charts and sales to platinum. The single "Baker Street," containing the now famous saxophone solo, reached #2 in the USA on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in the UK. The sax solo is so famous it enjoys its own Facebook page. A readers' poll conducted by Rolling Stone in 2008 placed it among the "100 greatest guitar songs of all time." According to reports, the song "Baker Street" still paid Rafferty roughly £80,000 a year more than 30 years after its release. "Right Down the Line" reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and spent four non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Easy Listening chart in the U.S., making this the only Rafferty song to ever reach #1 on any chart.
His follow up album, Night Owl, continued the trend and the title track and "Take The Money And Run" (not a cover of the Steve Miller Band song) cracked the charts. The album also contained the pop gem "Days Gone Down."
Rafferty continued to release music into the 1980's, but Snakes And Ladders (1980), Sleepwalking (1982) and North And South (1988) each saw diminishing album sales as tastes changed throughout the decade. His reluctance to perform live likely contributed to the decline in sales as well.
Rafferty spent his final years under a shroud of mystery and false reports of his death. Due to heavy drinking over the years his health worsened, and in August 2008 the newspaper Scotland On Sunday reported his disappearance. Months later another report stated, "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 " His final album, Life Goes On, saw its release in November 2009.
Two months ago a hospital in Bournemouth, Dorset, England admitted Rafferty for liver failure. His final days were upon him as doctor's gave him little chance for survival. Removed from life support, Rafferty recovered enough to go home where he eventually died.