Over 400 attend Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty's funeral

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty's funeral was held in Paisley on Friday. Over 400 turned out on the frosty morning as the man behind Baker Street was laid to rest in where he married - St Mirin's Cathedral, less than a mile from his birthplace.

Fans travelled from as far afield as New York to join family, friends and politicians at the service after Rafferty died on January 4 at the age of 63 in Gloucestershire, England. Born on Underwood Lane in Glenburn, Paisley, Rafferty started performing in local folk clubs in the 1960s before teaming up with Billy Connolly to form The Humblebums.

Rafferty performs in 1980

Rafferty went on to join with childhood friend Joe Egan to form Stealer's Wheel, achieving chart success in 1973 with Stuck In The Middle With You - a track which later resurfaced when it appeared on Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. Rafferty achieved international fame with Baker Street in 1978. He ultimately sold over 10 million records and Baker Street alone earned him an estimated £80,000 per year in royalties.

Walter MacAusland, a friend and former music promoter and bar owner, described Rafferty on Friday as "incredibly clever, with an incredibly poetic mind." He remembered the man, whom he gave early gigs to in Glasgow, as a retiring man who disliked the attention of fame.

Longterm friend John Byrne, an artist and playwright, delivered a eulogy. "Gerald could be incredibly funny. There are so many occasions when he had me laughing helplessly. But what some people may not appreciate is the lyrics to his songs were incredible. He wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs and he is the greatest songwriter Scotland has ever produced. When I saw him a few weeks ago his body was weak but his spirit as strong as ever. He had a serenity about him that I thought was wonderful." Days before the musician died Byrne received a late-night phone call. "Amongst the things he said, and the one that sticks in my mind and was germane to both of us, and we said it together, was: 'What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?' I know that he went to meet his maker sober and unafraid, and fiercely curious and with enormous bravery." He concluded by saying "He wasn't a saint, but then which of us are? I loved him dearly." Byrne designed album sleeves for Rafferty's music. Egan also spoke: "We hadn't spoken for a couple of years, but that didn’t really matter because we were so close. After all, we'd lived out of each other’s pockets for years. But I'm sad. Really, really sad."

Six of his family performed one of his songs unaccompanied at the service - his deceased brother Joe's children Neal, Brian, Eileen, Claire and Mark, and his daughter Martha. They sang Whatever's Written In Your Heart from his album City to City. "We all used to sing this song in the house as a kid," Martha said. "We loved singing his songs, and this one just seemed perfect for today."

Father John Tormey led the Requiem Mass, saying Rafferty "was very much aware of the spiritual element and you will find that in his songs." Tormey acknowledged the man's tendency to shun fame and attention, saying he "shunned the trappings of fame and celebrity to be true to himself."

Musicians attending included The Proclaimers, Robert Noakes and Graham Lyle. Proclaimer Craig Reid said "Music was Gerry's passion. He said music is something that you have to pass on to other people. You don't own it and it goes through you. His music reflected that." The two worked together on the song Letter From America, which Rafferty produced. Craig's twin brother Charlie recalled "Gerry was great for his refusal to sell out and his determination to do his own thing. This man was respected for what he did."

The cathedral where Rafferty's funeral was held

Rafferty spent his entire life dealing with alcohol use. Nor was this his only health problem: "There have been periods in my life where I have experienced depression," he said in a recent interview. "It has been through some of my darkest moments that I have written some of my best songs. For me, singing and writing is very therapeutic. It's much more effective than taking Prozac!"

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond attended, as did Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) Hugh Henry, Wendy Alexander, Pauline McNeill and Robin Harper. Billy Connolly was unable to attend due to tour commitments in Australia. Raphael Ravenscroft, the saxophonist who famously played the main riff in Baker Street, recorded a track in Exeter to mark the occasion.

After the funeral members of the public gave Rafferty his last applause as his cortege departed the cathedral, which is also a mile from Rafferty's former school, St Mirin's Academy. His body was taken for a private cremation.