Gerry Rafferty was a talented singer-songwriter of the 1970s. He was a prominent star in the soft rock scene, breaking ground with international hits like Baker Street and Right Down The Line.
Hearing his perfect pitch and lush, folksy vocals, you’d never think he was struggling.
So, what went wrong? Whatever happened to Gerry Rafferty?
Let’s find out!
Gerry Rafferty’s Rise to Fame
Rafferty was born in a small town near Glasgow in 1947. His father came from a long line of coal miners. And he had a drinking habit. His mother worked at a weaving mill and often sang traditional Irish and Scottish folk songs to Rafferty and his two brothers.
But life in post-war Scotland was rough, and Gerry had to leave school at age 16 to help support the family.
It was around this time, in the mid-60s, that Rafferty began to play in bands. According to an article in the Paisley Daily Express, Rafferty stated that “there was never anything else for me but music.” He busked for a few years in the London Underground train system and became a full-time musician after joining The Humblebums in 1969.
By 1971, Rafferty sensed he might be better off as a solo artist and produced his first record, Can I Have My Money Back. He developed a steady group of fans and became a well-known Scottish singer-songwriter. He was already married and had one daughter, Martha. Life in this local lane suited him well.
But in 1972, Rafferty’s longtime friend Joe Egan convinced him to start a band, Stealers Wheel. The pair were stunned when their single Stuck In The Middle With You swiftly rose to the top of the charts in 1973, scoring international success.
However, Rafferty never jived with the music industry. Neither fame nor fortune mattered to him. He quit the band in protest of the touring their label demanded, later rejoining after pleadings from his pal Egan.
Rafferty broke free again as a solo artist in 1975 with his second album release, City to City. He played every instrument on his demos and recorded them at home. He knew he had several great songs but was modest in his hopes for the album’s success. Once again, Rafferty was stunned, never expecting to become a millionaire when the album sold over five million copies.
What Happened to Gerry Rafferty?
Rafferty would go on to record ten studio albums in total. But he was tormented by his disdain for the music business. He could never reconcile his unabashed love for making music with the price he had to pay to get it heard.
Although alcoholism ran in his family, his close family members said the stress of success and performing live caused him to drink more. Rafferty was not a people person. According to his former manager Jon Brewer, City to City was rejected by several record label executives because of Rafferty’s rudeness.
The only reason they got a record deal was because Artie Mogull, United Artists wonder-rep, was in a rush and never met him.
“All he wants to do is write songs for his daughter,” they would say. For matters of the heart, what could be more beautiful? But for business, this want for home was too loud. He even turned down chances to work with Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
Unfortunately, Rafferty’s struggle with alcohol addiction would end his marriage. His childhood sweetheart, Carla Ventilla, divorced him after 20 years of marriage in 1990.
He became more of a recluse, struggling deeply with depression after the death of his brother in 1995. He continued composing and recording music until his last album release in 2009, called Life Goes On.
By then, Rafferty had purchased property in California to be near his daughter Martha. But he went back to the UK, going through severe drinking binges in high-end hotels, and drawing much unwanted press. He died of liver failure in 2011.
Did Gerry Rafferty Ever Tour?
Although the music industry beckoned for Gerry Rafferty to tour, he was not a fan of life on the road. Rafferty got a good dose of touring when he played with The Humblebums and briefly with Stealers Wheel.
By the time Stuck In The Middle With You became a number one hit, Rafferty had quit Stealers Wheel. The song outlines everything Rafferty didn’t like about the music industry, including touring.
According to Rafferty’s daughter Martha, Baker Street’s success put him over the edge. George Rafferty was shy, introverted, and suffered from bipolar disorder. His drinking increased with commercial success and subsequent attempts to play out.
He suffered a massive panic attack while on a press promo tour in New York for the album City To City. Subsequently, the reluctant singer canceled his upcoming US tour.
How Many Hit Songs Did Gerry Rafferty Have?
According to Billboard, Rafferty had five charting songs on the adult contemporary 100. His first top ten hit was Baker Street in May of 1978. Right Down The Line, his next single, held court at number one for four weeks in a row.
He had three more in 1979 that made it into the top 30. Home and Dry reached up to slot 26 in the early part of the year. Get it Right Next Time and Days Gone Down, from his third album, Night Owl, made it into the top 20.
If disco was the craze of the late 70s, Baker Street was the appetizer. This song was everywhere in 1978. This ballad perfectly portrayed the vibes as we faced a new decade—sexy, moody, soft yet bold.
The hypnotic saxophone, played by Raphael Ravenscroft, became so popular that saxophone sales reached an all-time high. Later dubbed ‘the Baker Street phenomenon,’ this saxophone revival showed up in film scores and even television commercials of the time.
Right Down the Line
Gerry Rafferty crowned the soft rock scene with this one. You kind of can’t help but like it, or at least softly sway to it. A classic, soothing love song, Right Down The Line charted across the world in 1978.
Get It Right Next Time
This upbeat adult contemporary hit climbed the charts in the US and UK in 1979. It has a rolling, smooth groove with a synthesizer and saxophone peaks. Rafferty’s lyrics come in almost as an afterthought in terms of composition. It’s about giving yourself a break in this crazy life.
You shouldn’t worry, I said, that ain’t no crime. Cause if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time
Did Gerry Rafferty Have a Glass Eye?
According to Jon Brewer, Rafferty’s manager in the 70s, the answer is yes! Rafferty played in The Humblebums from 1969 to 1971 with friend and comedian Billy Connolly.
Connelly described Rafferty as a spirited jokester. The duo had a silly Saturday ritual in their hometown of Glasgow. They would take to the busy shop streets on rainy days, looking for old ladies to prank.
Gerry’s glass eye was impossible to detect for most. When the elder shoppers put up their umbrellas, Gerry would ‘accidentally’ bump into them and immediately shout and hit the ground. He’d take out his glass eye and let it roll on the ground! The young men would give themselves extra kudos if the ladies passed out.
How Much Was Gerry Rafferty Worth When He Died?
Gerry Rafferty’s estate was worth £1.7 when he died on January 4, 2011. He was survived by his daughter, Martha, his granddaughter Celia, and brother Jim. His ex-wife, Carla, remained a reliable friend until the end. He spent his last years with fiance Enzina Fuschini, who helped him through some of his darkest hours of alcoholism.
Gerry Rafferty, Loving Prankster
Gerry Rafferty was a tormented artist, a loving father, a funny prankster, and an inspiration.
Although he was an intense personality for many industry execs, he was one of Britain’s most treasured musicians.
He remains relevant to artists of all ages, from Paul Simon to Harry Styles. Music was his oxygen. He craved anonymity and was not mentally equipped to handle the pressure of success. Fortunately, his soft, beautiful melodies will always remind us of his brighter days.