Saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft of ‘Baker Street’ Fame Dies
You might not know his name, or his face, but you certainly know his sax playing. Raphael Ravenscroft passed away on Sunday, Oct. 19, following a heart attack at age 60.
Ravenscroft laid down the iconic sax part on 'Baker Street,' the 1978 smash hit by Gerry Rafferty from his 'City To City' album. Though the record helped establish Rafferty, climbing just shy of the number one slot in both America and the U.K., Ravenscroft was simply doing his job as a session player.
"I think he was very proud of 'Baker Street' and that it made people feel good," his daughter, Scarlett, told the BBC. "You could tell from the way he played that he put his heart and soul into his music. I'm sure a lot of people will put on Baker Street and smile today." Though he did come to love the song he is most known for, in a 2011 interview, he admitted the song annoyed him -- but not for the reasons one might think. "I'm irritated because it's out of tune," Ravenscroft said. "It’s flat. By enough of a degree that it irritates me at best."
As an in-demand session player, he graced recordings by everyone from Abba and Marvin Gaye to Pink Floyd and Daft Punk. He also wrote a book, 'The Complete Saxophone Player,’ and became a tutor of music at York College in England.
Though he never received any writing credit for 'Baker Street,' the sax part was his own creation. "There was a backing track and a guide vocal. I basically just played," he said in a 2010 interview. "There [were] these big gaps, and I just played ... It was just another job. The didn't have expectations, cause it was so unlike what was happening at the time."
His payment that fateful day was "standard union rate of £27.50 a session," according to Ravenscroft -- roughly just over $50. (That check initially bounced by the way.) From that point on, however, he was able to command around £5000 a session. "It changed me from being a second division player to being a top player." The song continues to earn an estimated $120,000 a year in royalties for Rafferty.