Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"You know he'll always keep moving/You know he's never gonna stop moving . . ."

The Song: "Baker Street," Gerry Rafferty. Words & music by Gerry Rafferty. Track 2 of City to City, 1978.
How/when acquired: Downloaded MP3, c.2008.
Listen here.

Someone in my childhood home owned a copy of the City to City LP, and I think it might even have been my mother. Siblings, do you remember? I have vivid memories of this song and "Right Down the Line" playing on the car radio (WTAR-AM, when they still played music) as we drove around town in Mom's Ford LTD station wagon. If I close my eyes, I can smell the interior of that car, black vinyl and mud and cigarettes and God knows what else.

Gerry Rafferty was only 63, and in a way he seems to have died from success. The news reports say that "Baker Street" alone still brought him $125,000 a year, enough that he never had to work again. Alcohol and fear and who knows what other personal demons did the rest.

It's a strange and wonderful thing to create a work of art that people love. I think about this a lot, as someone in service to artists. Many might say — and I might agree — that since most of us can't create a work of art once, it is understandable and forgivable if an artist chooses to stop at one, or stop at two. Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and quit. Charles Laughton directed the strange and wonderful Night of the Hunter and never directed again.

Gerry Rafferty recorded City to City, and although he made seven albums after that, this obituary makes it sound as if he knew he had peaked, and found it harder and harder to keep trying. No one had the power to give him permission to stop, or forgive him for stopping.


Anonymous said...

Every time I hear "Right Down the Line," I'm 8 years old again. I liked being 8. R.I.P., Mr. Rafferty.

-- Ed

Richard said...

Don't forget about his work with Steelers Wheel- Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right...