As a child of the 70s, the soundtrack to my formative years comes from listening to my sister’s stereo blaring out the sounds of Queen, Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. Probably more than any other song from that era, Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” epitomizes the sound of the 70s, with its soft-rock sensibilities and Raphael Ravenscroft’s incredible saxophone (one of my favorite instruments). To this day, hearing that song evokes images for me of bell bottoms, big ole’ Ford Thunderbirds on the highway, and the solitude of my childhood room.
Yesterday, Gerry Rafferty died at the age of 63. A casual fan of his music, I did not really follow his career past the height of his fame. I was surprised in doing some research to find he was more of a tortured soul than I would have assumed from listening to his positive, upbeat music.
Born in 1947, Rafferty was a struggling musician when he teamed up with schoolmate Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel in 1972 and released his first big hit, “Stuck in the Middle With You” (U.S. Billboard Chart #6, 1973).
His next solo album, 1978’s “City to City,” was his biggest success and spawned three hits that, for me anyway, perfectly capture the soft rock sound of the decade, “Right Down the Line,” “Home and Dry,” and, of course, “Baker Street,” his most successful single (U.S. Hot 100 #2, 1978). According to Wikipedia, “City to City” sold over 5.5 million albums, knocking the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack out of the #1 spot in July of 1978.
Like many other artists from that era, Rafferty struggled to find a sound in the 1980s and 1990s, as singer/songwriters were pushed aside for hair metal and electronic pop. Years of alcohol abuse apparently took its toll, as he suffered chronic liver problems before finally succumbing to liver failure on Jan. 4, 2011.
When I heard he had passed, I posted the news on my Facebook page and was shocked at how many people commented that his music took them back to a bygone day, as well.
Thanks, Gerry, for giving me music that can take me back to the 1970s whenever I feel I need to visit a simpler time.