'Baker Street' star Gerry Rafferty dies

The Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty, who earned his place in pop history with a string of hit singles in the 1970s, has died at the age of 63.

His death yesterday morning, while at home in Dorset with his daughter Martha, was the culmination of a long illness that saw him admitted to hospital with liver failure in November. A few days ago, he was readmitted with kidney failure.

Rafferty achieved enduring fame on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to "Baker Street", a song lamenting the evils of alcoholism that he had only too much experience of himself throughout his career. Ultimately he was unable to shake off his troubles with drink, which he inherited from his Irish father, and gained notoriety for drunken rages capable of wrecking hotel rooms that continued even into his 60s.

Instantly identifiable thanks to Rafferty's smooth vocals and a distinctive saxophone riff by Raphael Ravenscroft, "Baker Street" sold more than four million copies worldwide and hung on to the No 2 spot in the US Billboard Chart for six weeks in 1978. Even more than 30 years later, the song was still earning him royalties of £80,000 per year.

He is perhaps best known to younger listeners for his hit single with Stealers Wheel, "Stuck In The Middle With You". It reached number eight in the charts in 1973, but it gained a new level of kudos among fans of pop culture in 1992 when it was used to soundtrack a memorable torture scene in Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs.

Born in Paisley, Glasgow, his musical career began in 1969 alongside Billy Connolly – a folk singer prior to his stand-up comedy days – in The Humblebums. Rafferty then went on to record his first solo LP, Can I Have My Money Back. Its commercial failure led him to form Stealers Wheel, the band that cemented his reputation, before rekindling his solo career. He continued to record throughout the 1990s, laying down his final album in 2000, titled Another World.

His wife Carla, whom Rafferty met in 1965 when she was a 15-year-old apprentice hairdresser, endured his aggressive behaviour in airports and restaurants for many years. She eventually left him in 1990, however, saying: "There was no hope. I would never have left him if there'd been a glimmer of a chance of him recovering." Nevertheless, Carla remained a pillar of support for the singer through his final years, during which he briefly disappeared from the public eye, eventually re-emerging after some months to announce that he was indeed alive.

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