1/09/2011

Gerry Rafferty and "Baker Street"

The untimely passing of Gerry Rafferty at the age of sixty-three, during the first week of 2011, provided a sad end to an uneasy life. Although the Scottish singer and songwriter, who was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1947 and is best known for his hit, "Baker Street," seemed too young to depart from this world, he apparently had suffered too much from the ill effects of his stubborn alcoholism to remain here any longer. As his final years ran their awkward course, with reports of his frequent drunkenness appearing in the press, it became clear that even the undoubted strength of his abilities as a musician could not save him from the harm and pain of his private difficulties.

Gerry Rafferty first stepped into the limelight in the early 1970s, as a member of The Humblebums (along with Billy Connolly, a fellow Scotsman whose name also became well-known in later years), and then with Stealers Wheel (whose single, "Stuck in the Middle with You," was a hit in 1973), but it was "Baker Street," an unforgettable song inspired by the city of London and released as a single under his own name in 1978, that changed his fate forever, bringing him worldwide fame, along with a great deal of money. Unfortunately, the arrival of fame and money did not appear to result in true happiness for him. He soon chose to withdraw from the burdensome duties of being a celebrated musician, frequently seeking to hide himself in the unhealthy realm of alcohol.

The next time you happen to encounter the poignant strains of "Baker Street," a durable track that still receives regular airplay on the radio, spare a few moments to remember the melancholy spirit of Gerry Rafferty, the gifted man who wrote it and performed it. In spite of the deep problems that weighed upon him throughout his life and finally dragged him down, his distinct talent and honest expressiveness enabled him to reach deep into himself and pull forth a heartfelt song that continues to make a lasting impression on all those who hear it.