After early musical collaboration with comedian/actor Billy Connolly in a group called The Humblebums, and a successful stint in Stealers Wheel, Gerry Rafferty enjoyed a successful solo career, becoming a transatlantic superstar thanks to 1978 hit Baker Street – and its parent album, City To City, which sold over 2.5 million copies.
Featuring a haunting sax hook played by Raf Ravenscroft, the engaging love song smoothed its way past the vitriol of punk rock and became one of the few pop tunes that almost everybody can hum.
His follow up album, Night Owl was again well received but failed to emulate the success of City to City. It was to be the high point of Rafferty’s career. His next two albums, Snakes and Ladders and Sleepwalking failed to make any impact.
Rafferty quit the music industry altogether in 1983, with Baker Street ensuring him a life-long income of around £80,000 per year. He did make sporadic solo albums in the late 80s and 90s, but by then he had split from wife Carla and become a semi-recluse in Los Angeles.
The death of brother Joe in 1995 was said to have been particularly devastating for him, after which his relationship with his remaining sibling, Jim, took an extraordinary turn.
Jim Rafferty set up a website called Effing Peasants (allegedly named after an insult Gerry threw at him and his friends) where he dismissed his famous younger brother as “The Great Gutsby” and “The Human Bottlebank”, claiming he was a paranoid drunk.
Then the real humiliations began. In 2005 – and now back in the UK – Rafferty was rushed to hospital after a collapse at his Hampstead home, after which he denied overdosing on prescription drugs.
A year later he was greeted by police at Inverness Airport after a ten-hour bender on a flight from LA via Heathrow. He was apparently so drunk that he had to be escorted from the plane in a wheelchair, an episode that so appalled waiting friends that they refused to collect him. When none of the airport taxis would accept him, Rafferty was taken by police to a drying-out clinic run by the Church Of Scotland.
In July 2008 he was thrown out of the exclusive Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, London, where he had been steadily sinking whisky for four days and relieving himself in public areas of the hotel. He checked himself into St Thomas’ hospital and was diagnosed with liver problems.
On 1 August he vanished from the hospital, leaving behind his clothes and luggage, and disappeared without a trace.
Rafferty died on 5 January 2011.