Famous Scots - Gerald Rafferty
Gerry Rafferty loved music but 'loathed and detested' the music industry.
Asked once what he believed was the persistent theme of his music, Rafferty replied: 'alienation' - a sentiment expressed in his seminal song Baker Street:
This city desert makes you feel so cold,
It's got so many people but it's got no soul
Born in Paisley, Scotland, on 16th April, 1947, Rafferty had a miserable childhood. His mother would hide from his father to avoid being beaten when he came home drunk but music pervaded the family’s life, as Rafferty assimilated Catholic hymns, traditional Irish and Scottish folk music, 1950s pop and even the Irish rebel tunes his deaf father bellowed.
Rafferty said: "My music has a sort of Celtic thing in the harmonies and chord progressions. The Celtic thing is the drone, you know - it's fifths, the same as in country music, a lot of which comes from Scotland and Ireland, anyway. That's why I especially liked the Everly Brothers."
His first major musical partnership was with Billy Connolly in a two-piece band playing social clubs in the Clyde.
"We're the Humblebums," the burgeoing comedian would announce. "I'm Billy Connolly and I'm humble." Then he'd point at his partner Rafferty and let audiences enjoy the unspoken punchline.
They had first met at an Orange Lodge gig, as Rafferty recalled: "It was a bit ironic since Billy and I are of Irish Catholic descent. We saw the joke in that and hit it off right away. After gigs we'd go to crazy parties full of heavy-duty characters carrying knives."
Rafferty recorded two albums with the Humblebums (The New Humbelbums and Open the Door) but the pair parted when it became clear that Connolly’s ambitions lay in comedy. “It was getting awkward on stage,” Rafferty said. “When I did a solo piece, just voice and acoustic guitar, Billy would walk off stage. And his jokes were getting longer and longer while the songs were getting shorter and shorter. It made sense to part when we did.”
Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Rafferty started to write his own songs and with Joe Egan, a friend since both were teenagers playing in their hometown of Paisley, he formed Stealers Wheel.
The pair their first major writing hit with Stuck In the Middle With You in 1972, a song taken from their self-titled debut-album.
Written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s paranoia, it ridiculed a music industry cocktail party, with the lyrics:
Clowns to the left of me,
jokers to the right,
here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
To Rafferty's utter disbelief his parody, composed as little more than a joke but with a catchy pop arrangement, struck gold, selling more than a million copies.
The song reached a new generation of listeners when Quentin Tarantino used it in the notorious ear-slicing scene in his 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs.
Stealers Wheel recorded only three albums and the band's fractious history was marked by legal problems and a host of personnel changes.
Rafferty said the legal issues helped him write "Baker Street," which featured a memorable saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft.
He said: "Everybody was suing each other, so I spent a lot of time on the overnight train from Glasgow to London for meetings with lawyers. I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street. We'd sit and chat or play guitar there through the night."
The final resolution of his legal problems was reflected in the song's final optimistic verse:
When you wake up it's a new morning,
The sun is shining, it's a new morning,
You're going, you're going home.
Following the success in 1978 the former busker continued composing but hated the celebrity that came with his success. He said: "Bob Dylan once said that fame was a curse. I think that, from an early stage in my career, I was aware there were many, many pitfalls of so-called celebrity. Once you have entered into that world you can no longer be the observer in life and I have always valued that highly. You become the observed."
The 1980s and 1990s brought alchol-induced health problems, divorce, legal wrangles and an extraordinary public feud with his elder brother, Jim, all of which led to long periods of depression for the singer. He admitted: "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. It's much more effective than taking Prozac!"
Despite his financial success, he was embittered by the music business, declaring in 2009: "The music industry is something I loathe and detest. It conjures up images of a gigantic factory spewing out parts of the machine. In many respects, this of course is exactly what it is now. Pumping out s--- like there's no tomorrow."
In February 2009, Rafferty released a statement saying he was alive and well and living in Tuscany after reports that he had been reported missing to the police. He was living part of the time in Tuscany with fiancee Enzina Fuschini and also resided in a cottage in Dorset.
He died in Dorset following liver and kidney problems.
Hopefully he will be remembered for his music - his gift for melody, distinctive voice and somewhat bleak worldview - and not his personal demons.
As he said: "It's every songwriter's ambition to come up with at least one song in their lifetime that's regarded as a classic and Baker Street is definitely mine."
Date of Death: 4th Jan 2011
Age at Death: 63
Cemetery: Woodside Crematorium
PostCode: PA1 2NP
Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley
Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave.