Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Gerry Rafferty RIP

Gerry Rafferty passed away in January. One of his songs sit in my all-time Top 10 and I would like to pay tribute to a troubled but brilliant musician.

If Rafferty was ever happy, it was not often. His childhood was marred by an abusive father, and he himself succumbed to the bottle. When his music thrust him into the limelight, he found it hard to cope. He never really made the big stage because of his reluctance to perform live and provide interviews and other high profile necessities of a demanding industry and fans.

The highly respected music journalist Paul Gambaccini summed it up on the BBC World News:

“His song “Baker Street” was about how uncomfortable he felt in the star system, and what do you know, it was a giant world hit. The album City to City went to #1 in America, and suddenly he found that as a result of his protest, he was a bigger star than ever. And he now had more of what he didn’t like. And although he had a few more hit singles in the United States, by 1980 it was basically all over, and when I say ‘it’, I mean basically his career, because he just was not comfortable with this.”

But he was an amazing musician and his songs will be his epitaph. He was able to merge his Scottish folk roots in a genuine way that made it his signature. I invite you to take a moment, crank up the volume, and listen to the sheer power of Baker Street.

Gerry Rafferty was a star of the ’70’s. He will most likely be remembered by those of a certain age (mine) not only as a great songwriter and musician, but as providing an important service by knocking Saturday Night Fever off the top of the UK summer charts.

I hope you find peace up there, Gerry. Thank you for the memories. Your music will live on.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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