January 5, 2011

Copyright News: Gerry Rafferty, RIP

Scottish pop-rocker of the 1970s (Stuck in the Middle with You and Baker Street with the unforgettable sax solo), Gerry Rafferty, has drunk himself to death at 63.
"In the 2009 interview, Mr. Rafferty called the music industry “something I loathe and detest.” Nevertheless, he earned nearly $125,000 a year in royalties for “Baker Street” alone." 

So,  his daughter or her heirs will collect on Baker Street until 2081.

52 comments:

Dahinda said...

I thought that he was going to "give up the booze and the one night stand!"

Shouting Thomas said...

Apparently, he was justified in hating the music biz. That $125k appears to have funded his drinking, which killed him.

Given the usual habits of musicians (I'm one), I would assume Rafferty sat around and did very little except drink and hope for the next hit.

He probably would have lived a better life and stayed sober if he'd gotten a decent office job.

The sax line was what sold the song. I'll bet Rafferty didn't write it. Most likely, the sax player improvised the line in the studio and never made more than a one time studio fee for the line.

Such are the vagaries of the music biz.

And it's not a particularly good song.

Anonymous said...

I loved his music too.
Something I never realised, until I read today's obituary, was that his hauntingly beautiful song "Mary Skeffington" was named after his own mother.
Also I read that Gerry had been severly abused as a child by an alcoholic Glaswegian Irish coal-miner father.On reading that last part I wept.

Anonymous said...

Hey, how about we give the progeny of Clifford Cocks the rights to RSA encryption for another century?

anony-mouse said...

Rafferty was an alcoholic. His father was an alcoholic. Wanna bet his grandfather...

This HBD stuff can be a bitch when you're on the receiving end, isn't it?

Almost wants to make you find some way to somehow help people compensate for what HBD takes away.

Almost...

Thripshaw said...

This obituary by his former manager is very sad and describes his struggle with severe alcoholism: "In phases of renunciation, he smashed cases of superb wines into a stream on his land."

eh said...

So, his daughter or her heirs will collect on Baker Street until 2081.

Presumably, radio stations et al will continue to play the song and sell advertising next to it.

Do you think that, after the passage of some amount of time, or maybe the death of the artist(s), radio stations (for example) ought to be able to use music to generate revenue at no cost? If not, i.e. if they should have to pay something, then if Rafferty's relatives shouldn't get the royalties from such use, who should?

carol said...

Well, as a musician I can say this is getting rather common with the famous and not so much. They can either go that way, or straighten up and find something to live for. Full-on drinking and smoking means an exit usually by 57 or so. Maybe Rafferty didn't smoke.

Then you have guys like Doc Cheatham, who never drank, and is still gigging now and then in his 90s. Choice, baby!

Wes said...

Wow sorry to hear he's gone. Never good when they drink themselves away. Always loved that Baker Street song.

Anonymous said...

I don't drink, but alcohol seems to have some benefit if used properly.

I've always assumed it is hard to use properly.

Is it?

Goatweed

Anonymous said...

George Harrison smoked himself to death. He picked up that habit from Paul McCartney when they were young teens.

keypusher said...

Do you think that, after the passage of some amount of time, or maybe the death of the artist(s), radio stations (for example) ought to be able to use music to generate revenue at no cost? If not, i.e. if they should have to pay something, then if Rafferty's relatives shouldn't get the royalties from such use, who should?

Oh, that's easy. If Bach can be exploited for free, Gerry Rafferty should be fair game after some very not long period of time.

Anonymous said...

This song was incidental to my high school years. I always hated it. My constant dialing away from it finally ruined the tuner on my Panasonic transistor radio.

Kylie said...

"Apparently, he was justified in hating the music biz. That $125k appears to have funded his drinking, which killed him."

He may have been justified in hating the music biz. But not on the basis you suggest. I know--or rather, have known--more than a few street drunks who drank themselves into early graves on minimal amounts of cash.

Slightly OT, I really should start calling myself "Lady Mondegreen". I don't keep up with modern music so I wasn't surprised to find I wasn't familiar with Rafferty's big hit, "Baker Street". Imagine my surprise to learn that I did in fact know it--but as "Bleecker Street".

Oh, well. That's not nearly as embarrassing as my discovery only last year that "Nights in White Satin" doesn't start with a "K".

SGOTI said...

I think I actually liked "Right Down the Line" off of "City to City" better (the album contained both that and "Baker Street").

The Foo Fighters also did a pretty good update of "Baker Street" about ten years ago.

Nonetheless, RIP Gerry Rafferty.

Anonymous said...

The sax line was played by a man named Raphael Ravenscroft - it was originally intended to be for guitar.

Ravenscroft's fee was a cheque for £27, which he says bounced anyway and is now framed and hangs on his solicitor's wall. Rafferty has not attempted to make further payment, and Ravenscroft has chosen not to pursue the matter of a song that guarantees Rafferty a yearly income of £80,000. Since the song thrust Rafferty into a spotlight that has made him deeply uncomfortable ever since, maybe Ravenscroft is right to regard the riches of 'Baker Street' as tainted money: "If I had received pots of money, I wouldn't have known what to do," he remarked recently. "It might have destroyed me."

http://news.scotsman.com/opinion/Stuck-in-a-battle-with.4352529.jp

Anonymous said...

Alcohol is a non-prescription tranquilizer. The worse your life is, the more likely you are to abuse it to the point of serious self-harm.

adadsfasdfasdf said...

RIGHT DOWN THE LINE is my fav of his.

Come to think of it, he only had three great songs.

Right, Baker, and Stuck.
Baker was on the radio constantly when I was around 10 or 11. Baker captures perfectly the mood of urban life.

adsfadasfd said...

"Apparently, he was justified in hating the music biz. That $125k appears to have funded his drinking, which killed him."

But maybe had he not been successful, he might have drunk himself to death by the age of 50 out of poverty and depression.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this guy or any of his music and I don't see his death as any sort of tragedy.

How much is a year of life worth? Obviously it depends on which year - a year at 25 is worth a lot more than a year at 85. Is this a smooth curve, this value function? Such that each passing year makes the next year ever so slightly less valuable.

No, I don't think so. It seems to me that the curve bends suddenly downward at just about age 63. Rafferty had experienced all of the good years. He only missed those years where no matter how carefully you lived, you are in a precipitous decline.

In the old days the life expectancy was about 36. This is the crux of the "death panel" issue. We keep people alive to extreme ages through expensive technology. At an age of 63 Rafferty would have been considered an old man at age of human history and in any country except quite recently in the West.

It is also true that musicians generally made their best contributions when they were young. As I understand it his music output had stopped, the world didn't lose much when this old man passed.

I'm sure that "Drinking Yourself to Death" has many unpleasant moments but it has to be better than cancer or emphysema or many other deadly afflictions. All in all, drinking yourself to death at 63 is not such a bad way to go.

Albertosaurus

josh said...

I wonder what he thought of Tarantino making "Stuck In The Middle With You" immortal among movie-nerds? He mustve made a pretty penny on that. I heard that song as a yoot and thought it at the time fair to middlin.Hearing the opening guitar strums will always make me think of Travolta and his absurd hair combing.(I guess the scene has helped Travolta,too,among a certainin strata of society,as he pursues his own private activities...) An obit said he sang it as a tribute or mock of Dylan,not sure which.he wasnt the only one. Dylans erstwhile lover--and yes,Whiskey, the little guy mustve been alpha at one time,because she would not let him go!--Joan Baez sang a version of Bob's beautiful "Twist of Fate" in full Dylan mode. John Lennon also mocked him here(he mustve had a complex view of Dylan,a mix of jealousy and scorn..hey that sounds like a Bob lyric!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLgM5eBnudE As for Gerry's father, when I saw that Gerry was a Scotsman I immed wondered if he was Irish.The sensitive "Anonymous"aided me there. I'd be willing to bet that a disp. share of Scttish creative talent,not to mention soccer success, comes from their not always welcomed Irish immigrants. In fact,taking into account the entire spectrum of rock music from the USA,the Britsih Isles and Australia,keeping in mind its non-African influenece from white folk music,you'd have to say that the Irish have contributed more to popular music,by far,than any racial group on Earth! Maybe thats why almost ALL rock from outside that sphere sucks.

Laban said...

Father, son - it's like Zola's Rougon-Macquart family.

Anonymous said...

Never really cared for that bombastic sax line and that's all I can recall from the song. "Stuck in the Middle with You", on the other hand, is a great song.

Shouting Thomas said...

Also I read that Gerry had been severly abused as a child by an alcoholic Glaswegian Irish coal-miner father.On reading that last part I wept.

Oh, Jesus Christ! You really had to do that.

Everybody claimed to be abused in the 90s. And you wept?

Good God Almighty!

TH said...

The sax line was what sold the song. I'll bet Rafferty didn't write it. Most likely, the sax player improvised the line in the studio and never made more than a one time studio fee for the line.

Apparently, he did not get even that. From Wikipedia:

Raphael Ravenscroft from Dumfries is a Scottish professional saxophone player and author on saxophone play.

He is best known for his work with Gerry Rafferty, performing the iconic saxophone solo on "Baker Street". Ravenscroft was paid £27 for the session, with a cheque that bounced
.

asdfsfasdf said...

I think I know what REALLY killed Gerry Rafferty. He caught this video on youtube and lost the will to live(or laughed himself to death).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5riqW8LptKg&feature=related

Get a load of the self-portrait on the wall. He must really think of himself as hot stuff.

Anonymous said...

If Ravenscroft wasn't paid for the sax piece does he own the copyright to it.

Goatweed

Anonymous said...

Excuse the tautology, but 'drinking yourself to death' is a lifetime's project. It's not as easy as it sounds. I could never understand the Nicholas Cage character in Leaving Las Vegas who apparently accomplished it in a few weeks from a standing start.
Gilbert Pinfold.

Kylie said...

"I'm sure that 'Drinking Yourself to Death' has many unpleasant moments but it has to be better than cancer or emphysema or many other deadly afflictions."

Wrong. Drinking oneself to death is every bit as bad as cancer or emphysema, according to my (admittedly second-hand) understanding. In the end stages of chronic alcoholism, the body shuts down in much the same way it does with cancer or emphysema.

My cousin drank himself to death at the age of 41. He died sober--but addicted to the morphine he was given to alleviate the pain caused by advanced liver failure. Like a cancer patient, he'd lost much of his weight and was emaciated, except for his bloated belly. My aunt said he looked like a concentration camp survivor. His funeral had to be closed casket, due to his wasted appearance.

I'd agree, though, that all of the aforementioned are probably better than afflictions like Lou Gehrig's disease.

someguy said...

I have a close to perfect life and I have no problem dying from drink at 65. Of course I could lead a perfectly clean life and hold out to 95 so I can play 3-D video games.

sj071 said...

Mr.Rafferty lived his life to the full, was loath to saddle future genarations with an enormous healthcare bill thanks to his healthy lifestyle, and feared the moment when woman not legally married to him would say 'you missed the bedpan'...;)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that "Drinking Yourself to Death" has many unpleasant moments but it has to be better than cancer or emphysema or many other deadly afflictions. All in all, drinking yourself to death at 63 is not such a bad way to go.

Albertosaurus


Actually, it's worse because it takes longer, and there are typically many brushes with death along the way.

My father died at 63 last year. He drank himself to death, too. I'd been watching him dying for my entire life. His father was a former Irish miner as well (in Nevada), and a mean drunk to boot.

I think Rafferty's daughter deserves the money -- all I got when my dad finally died was a bill from the county and a wave of bitter memories and regrets. Maybe the checks to the daughter can be seen as some kind of divine grace for all the typical Irish suffering, which at least gives those people soul.

Dutch reader said...

As a working musician I should sympathize a session player who would appear to have been cheated out of his just compensation for his contribution, but I do find it rather hard to believe that Ravenscroft, who apparently was already established as a session player at the time, accepted the recording session date for the low fee (even for the late seventies, I'd say) of only 27 pounds - which he then failed to collect - and then went on to work with Rafferty again at least twice, in 1979 and 1980, and to record several of Rafferty's songs on his own solo album.

Ravenscroft then went on to work with Pink Ployd, ABBA, Mike Oldfield, America and the London Symphony Orchestra, among others so he would hardly classify as destitute.

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/raphael-ravenscroft-p117211/credits

While the sax part is indeed the main hook of the song, but IMHO the rest of the song contains enough other elements that make it a good song in its own right.

Anonymous said...

"How much is a year of life worth? Obviously it depends on which year - a year at 25 is worth a lot more than a year at 85. Is this a smooth curve, this value function? "

Spoken like a true ageist 30-something. Michelangelo was the chief architect of St. Peter's Basilica shortly before his death at age 88. Of course when he carved the Pieta he was 25.

For some folks, age takes away little and deeply informs.

Anonymous said...

Well, Gerry Rafferty was a guy who overcame a tough background, developed his talents well, gave a lot of people pleasure, and left behind a notable body of work.

One might or might not like his music personally, but he was an artist which is a noble thing to be. It's a human life, and more productive than most, and it seems a little cold to dismiss it with the preface "Copyright News."

Recall your better selves, folks, I'm positive you can do it.

Gene Berman said...

Carol:

You're probably right about that and it probably acounts for how I've made it to a reasonably vigorous 74.

I smoke almost 2 packs of the old-fashioned (non-filter) Camels per day and beer, whiskey (and other spiritous liquors) and wine (all well-stocked and within easy reach).

But, mind you--I always put my cigaret down before I take a drink--so I'm never drinking AND smoking; that's probably the secret!

Anonymous said...

"How much is a year of life worth? Obviously it depends on which year - a year at 25 is worth a lot more than a year at 85. Is this a smooth curve, this value function? "

Not an "ageist" remark but obviously written by a young person. Imagine thinking that 25 is the top of life?


Thomas Sowell said that the young do not value experience because they have none. Many times I can tell my children exactly what will happen in the future when it is a blank wall to them because of my experience. I can also save them from many painful lessons if they bother to follow my advice.

I remember my adolescence as painful and young adulthood more so. I always was dissatisfied with my position, envious of others (when it was probably a front). Who at 25 is satisfied with their life? Now view yourself at 50, you have a comfortable home, but more importantly, you have the assets to comfort and protect the people you love.

Value of life plotted against age? When my 84 year old mother thought she was finished, her only words were: "so soon". So will yours.

Anonymous said...

Also I read that Gerry had been severly abused as a child by an alcoholic Glaswegian Irish coal-miner father.On reading that last part I wept.

Oh, you're such a sensitive, caring person. And modest, never trying to draw unwarranted attention to yourself.

Let me weep with you. Boo hoo hoo.
1/05/2011

Anonymous said...

I wrote that.

-- David Davenport

Anonymous said...

Kylie and Anonymous who lost his father are right: alcoholism and rough living in general are hellish all along, not just at the end. It's not like they're moderately healthy and then just keel over unexpectedly one day.

On Lou Gehrig's disease: my mom has been a nurse for decades and has seen many deaths. The very worst death of all, the one that gave her nightmares and still haunts, was a Lou Gehrig's patient that a dumb temp nurse had put flat on her back and thus began drowning her. Mom discovered her in this situation when she started her shift and the woman died a few minutes later in her arms. Mom cried, stroked her hair, and just kept telling her it was going to be okay; the look on the woman's face and her pain were just so horrific as she was completely sentient.

-------
I was discovered to have an extra liver lobe during a routine prenatal sonogram... it has already been claimed for a hard drinking relative on my Scot-Irish/Irish side :0

Anonymous said...

Baker Street is a nice, catchy tune that I remember decades later. Still, I'm impressed that the royalties were so much. I'd say good for Gerry but like others pointed out, maybe it wasn't such a blessing to be rich like that.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? There are people who enjoyed the music of Stealer's Wheel? And the idiotic and abominable "Stuck in the Middle With You"? Ya learn something new every day at iSteve.

Anonymous said...

I wrote about Kylie, Lou Gehrig's disease, etc. above.

Dahlia
****

Anonymous said...

Kylie said,
Oh, well. That's not nearly as embarrassing as my discovery only last year that "Nights in White Satin" doesn't start with a "K".

*****

You've just educated me! Bedsheets, not chivalrous men, huh.

Dahlia

Laban said...

Agreed - alcoholism is a terrible end - liver failure, throat blood vessels rupturing, leg thromboses - quite apart from the distressing journey to get there. If you have the money to keep drinking (say if you're signed off sick from work in the UK, rather than being sacked and on the street) and you really hit the bottle hard it can kill in only a few years.

I've known four alcoholics and they're all dead. Only way they could possibly have been stopped would have been some kind of kidnap/imprisonment and forced withdrawal under medical supervision.

What happens to alcoholics in prison? Are they straightened out until release ?

The only heroin addict I know has wrecked his life, but he's still alive.

DavidB said...

His daughter or her heirs will only 'collect' on Rafferty's songs if they are still popular enough to generate royalties. If they are, I don't think it is unreasonable that copyright should continue for some time after the author's death, especially when the author dies relatively young. One can argue about the appropriate length of copyright protection (and 70 years after death does seem long) but if you accept the principle of intellectual property, there is nothing odd in the idea that it can be inherited, like any other form of property. The fact that the inheritor has not 'earned' it is no more relevant than if the inherited property is a car or a house. Does anyone here think their children are not entitled to inherit their house?

Incidentally, the quoted $125K per year is probably mainly from use of the song in radio, TV and films, not record sales. Royalties for a single record would usually only be around 10 cents per copy, and I don't think the song is selling anything like 1 million copies per year.

Anonymous said...

I bet you a pound to a penny that Gerry Rafferty's descent into alcoholism was a response to the deep-seated trauma inflicted on his psyche by his own abusive alcoholic father when Rafferty was at the most crucial age for brain formation.
Basically it's a slow suicide - an attempt to disappear into a void of disillusion and nothingness.

tommy said...

So, his daughter or her heirs will collect on Baker Street until 2081.

Who can deny that Rafferty would have made even better music if only we had extended those rights until 4081 as anarcho-capitalists might suggest?

Anonymous said...

Alcohol is a non-prescription tranquilizer. The worse your life is, the more likely you are to abuse it to the point of serious self-harm.

You're saying that alcohol is a drug? It can't be! Since when do kids get boozed up and murder their parents, as happens often with marijuana and LSD? Since when does alcohol cause chromosome damage?

Besides alcohol is mentioned in the Bible of all places. That should give you a clue about its character.

Anonymous said...

Who can deny that Rafferty would have made even better music if only we had extended those rights until 4081 as anarcho-capitalists might suggest?

The same anarcho-capitalists that illegally download everything for free?

David said...

The precipitous decline does not come at the same age (63) for everyone. And 25 can be rotten mentally, emotionally, and financially, even if great physically. And "Stuck in the Middle" is a good, catchy song, period.

Bruce Banner said...

Dahinda said...

I thought that he was going to "give up the booze and the one night stand!"

He just gave up on the one night stands bit after all those years.