musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

One of the albums I listened to on my MP4 player while wandering around Kuala Lumpur last week was the soundtrack from Good Will Hunting. I never saw the film but enjoyed the music on this album very much. In addition to Danny Elfman’s film score, there are some cool tunes from the Waterboys, Al Green, the Dandy Warhols, and several songs from the late great Elliott Smith. But the tune that always stands out for me, bursting forth with a triumphant tuneful majesty, is Gerry Rafferty’s famous hit “Baker Street.” Everyone raves about Rafael Ravenscroft’s soaring sax solo on that song, but Rafferty’s comfortably smooth vocals were also a vital component to the song’s appeal. People always associate Gerry Rafferty with that one song, but he recorded many other fine tunes during his career as well.

 

Prior to embarking on a solo career, Rafferty was a member of two bands; The Humblebums (which included Billy Connolly, the same fellow who later gained fame as a comedian) and Stealers Wheel. The latter group enjoyed considerable success in the mid 1970s, scoring big hits with “Stuck in the Middle with You” (which was later featured in the film Reservoir Dogs) and “Star.” I have an excellent compilation of Rafferty’s music on the Raven label titled Days Gone Down: The Anthology 1970-1982. This CD includes some of Rafferty’s material from those two bands along with a bunch of his solo recordings. Of course “Baker Street” is featured, but there are many other impressive songs on this single disc, including “Right Down the Line”, “Get it Right Next Time”, “Home and Dry”, and the awesome title track “Days Gone Down (Still Have the Light in Your Eyes).” Anyone who calls Rafferty a one-hit wonder was obviously not paying attention.

 

Rafferty possessed a very distinctive, soothing voice, one that fit his tunes like the proverbial velvet glove. He was not a shouter or gritty rocker, nor a particularly eloquent musical poet, but his songs were of high quality and all these decades later, they still stick in your head. Rafferty reportedly battled alcohol problems in recent years and during the past decade there were numerous reports of drinking binges and mysterious disappearances. Sadly, Rafferty passed away from liver failure last year. But it’s never too late to discover some of the musical jewels he left behind.

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