Scottish singer Gerry Rafferty passed away on Tuesday following a long illness. Best known for his hits “Baker Street” and “Right Down the Line” (1978, as a solo artist) and “Stuck in the Middle with You” (1972, with the band Stealers Wheel), which went on to resurface as a hit a second time in the Tarantino movie Reservoir Dogs.
Born in 1947, Rafferty began his music career as a busker before joining the group Humblebums, which also featured future Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Rafferty was a private man who avoided publicity, though a contract dispute with Stealers Wheel and online comments by his brother, along with a long struggle with alcolism followed by liver failure, kept him somewhat in the public eye. He was uncomfortable playing live, which is blamed for the decreased sales of his later albums.
“Baker Street,” named after a London street and from the album City to City, was a surprise hit in 1978 — saxophone solos (as played on this song by Raphael Ravenscroft) were not commonplace at the time, during the height of the disco, punk, and new wave eras. The song led to an increase in saxophone sales, and was further immortalized when played by Lisa Simpson in an episode of The Simpsons. Slash is rumored to have based his guitar solo in “Sweet Child o’ Mine” on it. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named “Baker Street” to their list of the top 100 guitar songs. (Guitarist Hugh Burns played the famous solo at the end.)
Artist ranging from Waylon Jennings to Rick Springfield and Jars of Clay to Maynard Ferguson have covered the song. The Foo Fighters are among the most recent to cover it. It was featured in the movie Good Will Hunting. The album the song appeared on, City to City, sold 5.5 million copies.
In October of last year, “Right Down the Line” was recognized by BMI for more than 3 million plays, “Stuck in the Middle with You” for more than 4 million plays, and “Baker Street” for more than 5 million plays.