Thursday, January 6, 2011

R.I.P. Gerry Rafferty

Yesterday, I got word that singer Gerry Rafferty had passed away from liver failure. Like many Americans, I was introduced to Rafferty and his musical partner Joe Egan with their 1972 hit as Stealers Wheel.

Stuck in the Middle with You

“Stuck in the Middle with You,” which by the way has been used for several TV commercials, was written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s style. It struck a chord with many folks and is often used when speaking of Rafferty’s career. In March 1973, the song peaked in the US at #6. While it is Joe Egan who handles the lead vocals on the song, Rafferty sings harmony and is its coauthor. I love this tune – especially the lap steel guitar.


Stealers Wheel had one other hit. “Star,” from the band’s 1973’s “Ferguslie Park” album, the album and song was released after Stealers Wheel was reduced to two people – Egan and Rafferty. It only made it to #29 in 1974, but it is a great tune nonetheless.

The accompanying video is a TV appearance with Egan and Rafferty lip syncing to the single’s audio track. It has harmonica and kazoos – for what else could a person ask.

Baker Street

This is one of those rare songs that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard it the first time. It was during the spring of 1978 and I was driving from Logan, WV to Huntington on WV Route 10 in my Chevy Vega.

The song came on WKEE-FM as I was driving through Salt Rock and as soon as I hear Raphael Ravenscroft’s alto saxophone (he also played soprano sax on the cut), I immediately pulled off the road to hear the song in its entirety.

Ravenscroft’s solo was responsible for a resurgence of the sales of saxophones and the use of the instrument in popular music. “Baker Street” was a huge hit peaking at #3 in the UK and at #2 in the US. The “City to City” LP charted at #1 on the Billboard album charts. The single was certified gold and the album platinum.

While Rafferty never received the chart success as he had with “Baker Street,” he had four other charting singles: “Right Down the Line” at #12, “Home and Dry” at #28, “Days gone Down” at #17, and “Get it right Next Time” at #21. Rest in Peace Gerry – we will miss your contributions to this world.

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