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Singer Gerry Rafferty dead at 63

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Rafferty had a hit in the 1970s with "Baker Street"
  • He was also famous for "Stuck in the Middle With You"
  • Rafferty battled alcoholism for decades
  • Music
  • Celebrity News

London (CNN) -- Singer Gerry Rafferty, famous for the 1970s hits "Baker Street" and "Stuck in the Middle With You," has died, his agent said Wednesday.

He was 63. A cause of death was not given.

Rafferty was born in 1947 in Paisley, Scotland, near Glasgow, the son of an Irish-born miner, according to Michael Gray, his manager in the late 1970s. Gray wrote Rafferty's obituary Wednesday in The Guardian newspaper.

He was an "unwanted third son" whose mother would take him out of the house on Saturday nights when his father would come home drunk, Gray said. The father died when Rafferty was 16.

That same year, Rafferty started work at a butcher's shop and the tax office, playing music on the weekends with a school friend in a band called the Mavericks, Gray said. Rafferty later joined another band, the Humblebums, with comedian Billy Connolly, Gray said.

It was in the 1970s, however, that Rafferty had his heyday. He was a member of the soft-rock group Stealers Wheel when they recorded "Stuck in the Middle With You," an upbeat song that did well on the U.S. charts.

The song became a hit for a second time in 1992 after director Quentin Tarantino used it in his movie "Reservoir Dogs."

Stealers Wheel fell apart in 1975, and that's when Rafferty embarked on the solo career that would make him famous.

He recorded the demos for the 1978 album "City to City" in his wife's parents' house using a four-track machine, playing every instrument himself, Gray wrote. The saxophone-fueled "Baker Street" drove sales of the album, which sold 5 million copies and made Rafferty an overnight millionaire, Gray wrote.

In "Baker Street," Rafferty sang about disillusionment in the big city, describing a man's failed search for his dreams.

The city has "got no soul," he sang. "It's taken you so long to find out you were wrong/When you thought it held everything."

The song ends with hope, however, with Rafferty ultimately singing about a "new morning" and that the man is going home.

The follow-up album, 1979's Night Owl, included the hits "Days Gone Down," "Get it Right Next Time," and the title track. Gray called the songs "gorgeously produced works of Gerry's prime."

Wrote Gray, "The voice, redolent of both Lennon's and McCartney's, yet unmistakably his own; the music, a shimmering delta of sound; the songs, romantic yet pushily sardonic -- all came to fruition thanks to Gerry's gift of perfect pitch and an obdurate determination to stick to his guns."

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The following years saw a few more albums and a job producing the Proclaimers' 1987 hit "Letter from America."

His sales and standards declined, however, and he "spiralled into alcoholism," putting on weight and alienating his longtime wife, Carla, Gray said. She finally left in 1990 but the two remained in touch, Gray said.

In August of 2008, Rafferty hit the tabloids after a "five-day binge at a five-star London hotel" led management to admit him to a hospital. He retreated to Dorset, England, where he was "relatively well" but ultimately sapped of talent.

"For two decades," wrote Gray, "alcohol had dominated this creative and intelligent man's life."