Roger Whittaker obituary


Though there was by no means any such phenomenon as Whittakermania, Roger Whittaker, who has died aged 87, constructed an enormous worldwide following in a profession that spanned six many years. Because the Boston Globe famous of his stage performances: “Nobody will get excessive. Nobody will get hysterical with pleasure. And but Roger Whittaker is among the hottest entertainers on the planet.”

Whittaker’s clean baritone voice and songs of affection, loss and craving endeared him to audiences worldwide. His greatest identified songs, the place his voice was invariably accompanied by keening strings, included 1969’s Durham City (the Leavin’), I Don’t Imagine in If Anymore (1970), which reached No 8 within the UK, The Final Farewell (1971, reissued in 1975 to grow to be a Prime 20 hit within the US and a chart-topper in 11 nations), and Wind Beneath My Wings (1982).

He additionally had a trademark whistling means, which he used to carry out The Skye Boat Tune in a duet with Des O’Connor, reaching the UK Prime 10 in 1986.

Although he didn’t rack up chart hits as prolifically because the Beatles or Abba, his frequent TV and dwell appearances made him a family title in lots of nations. Within the mid-Eighties, he was acknowledged as Germany’s most profitable recording artist. He made a number of recordings in German, singing the lyrics phonetically since he couldn’t converse the language.

He was by no means trendy, however by no means out of trend along with his viewers. When he recorded a track equivalent to Inexperienced, Inexperienced Grass of House, it lacked the drama of Tom Jones’s model and his remedy of Tune Sung Blue was homelier and extra avuncular than Neil Diamond’s unique, but it surely all turned Whittaker music.

He favored to say he represented the “silent majority”. He outlined this as “the sort of one that when he marries turns into a mother or father and a taxpayer and devotes himself to citing his kids correctly – all in all, a reasonably straight-down-the-line man”.

Within the 70s, when rock music was dominating the document trade, Whittaker was dropped by his label, RCA, even though he had offered a number of million discs. He determined to market his 1977 album, All My Greatest, on TV. “I used to be the primary act to go on TV with data,” he stated. All My Greatest offered almost 1m copies.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, he was the son of Vi (nee Showan) and Edward Whittaker, who had owned a grocery store in Staffordshire, however moved to a farm close to Thika after Edward sustained severe accidents in a bike accident and had been suggested {that a} sizzling, dry local weather would assist his recuperation.

Edward developed a brand new grocery enterprise, whereas Vi labored as a trainer. Roger, who might converse Swahili earlier than he realized English, attended the Prince of Wales faculty (now Nairobi faculty). He had begun studying the guitar at seven.

After faculty, the place he had sung within the choir, he was known as up for nationwide service. He was posted to the Kenya Regiment, and for 2 years was concerned in preventing the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebels. He subsequently attended the College of Cape City to check medication, however after 18 months he left and skilled to be a trainer.

In 1959 he moved to Britain and enrolled at Bangor College in north Wales, the place he studied zoology, biochemistry and marine biology. He additionally started to make his first strikes into music, enjoying gigs to earn some money and recording songs on flexi discs distributed with the college newspaper.

These provoked curiosity from Fontana data, and in 1962 his first single releases had been The Cost of the Gentle Brigade and Metal Males.

He performed concert events in Northern Eire and appeared on the Ulster TV present This and That, and his profession developed with fixed touring round Britain.

“I realized how you can entertain within the golf equipment of the north-east of England, the working males’s golf equipment the place the miners go,” he stated. In 1964 he married Natalie O’Brien.

By 1968 he was touring internationally and even had a TV showcase within the Soviet Union. On the 1968 Knokke track contest in Belgium, Whittaker carried out If I Had been a Wealthy Man, from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, and his personal whistling composition, Mexican Whistler, serving to Britain to win the competitors, and each tunes had been hits in France, the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1969 he scored his first UK Prime 20 hit with Durham City (the Leavin’), which reached No 12. Its easy-listening combination of sentimentality and nostalgia, with its mournful references to warfare and bereavement, was typical of Whittaker’s work.

He revisited his African background within the documentary movie Roger Whittaker in Kenya: A Musical Safari (1982), and in 1986 he revealed his autobiography (written along with his spouse), So Far, So Good. Three years later, he acquired the information that his mother and father had been attacked by a gang of robbers in Kenya, leaving his father useless and his mom brutally crushed. She subsequently moved again to Britain.

Exterior music, Whittaker had a shrewd eye for antiques. His assortment of work, furnishings and artworks was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1999 for greater than £1m, similtaneously he offered his Herefordshire dwelling and moved to Essex. Latterly he lived within the south of France.

He’s survived by Natalie and by their 5 kids, Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Man and Alexander, 12 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and his sister, Betty.


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