Gerry Rafferty Reminds Us: Don’t. Waste. Your. Life

By Steve Pauwels

Until recently, the neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts I visit almost daily featured an in-house music station specializing in the soundtrack of my youth: 1970’s “classic rock”. Unsurprisingly, the superior and instantly recognizable “Bakerstreet” was a staple. It erupted from the coffee-shop speakers not long ago -– which got me thinking about the album that originally carried it and the artist who crafted it.

Gerry Rafferty is, without serious dispute, one of the criminally under-appreciated lights of that musical era: His two albums which emerged late in that decade (’78’s City to City and ’79’s Night Owl) are flatly masterpieces — not one filler or throwaway song between them; several positively addictive. The Scottish tune-maker’s offerings are sometimes puckish, often thoughtful; even regularly and refreshingly marbled with splashes of winsome spirituality and biblical themes and language.

City‘s comparatively unknown “Island“, all by itself, distinguishes the erstwhile “Stealer’s Wheels” front man  as a premier talent of the period. With it’s gorgeous melody laced around a sublime arrangement, sumptuous lyrics and his telltale, smooth-as-butter vocals, I’d rank it among the most affecting love songs ever recorded.

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Yet, disappointingly, following these limited outings: What happened to Gerry Rafferty?

Publicly and commercially not much else, it seems.

He continued, somewhat erratically, releasing batches of new material (some of it, quite good); but these follow-ups never garnered much attention. For the next quarter-century, music-lovers didn’t hear a whole lot about Gerry Rafferty. Then, almost exactly four years ago, sad news emerged  of the mysterious and reclusive Scotsman’s untimely passing; apparently from maladies related to alcohol abuse.

That wasn’t the whole story, of course. A little investigating quickly unearthed accounts of an immensely gifted, albeit temperamentally prickly, entertainer. A young “star” who grew soon to loathe the peripatetic demands of celebrity; who seemed determined to buck “the system” which had helped introduce his worthy abilities to an international audience.

One observer has reflected, ” It was ironic that Rafferty—a lover and collector of religious icons, who would later name one of his publishing companies ‘Icon Music’ — was also an iconoclast.”

Expressed less delicately: he was contrarian to the point of self-destruction.

And persistent bouts of depression, salted with on-again-off-again, whiskey-soaked woes, didn’t make things any better.

In these still-infant days of 2015, Gerry Rafferty reminds those of us beginning  a new year that a life freighted with massive ability and brimming potential won’t necessarily — certainly not automatically — end up flourishing as it should. And when that kind of non-fulfillment eventuates, who suffers? Certainly the individual who never reaches prospective heights he might have; but beyond that, others who are denied the blessings the under-performer might have brought them.

Gerry Rafferty’s shortfall ought to drive home:

– Maximum success requires, as my father often emphasizes, “doing the things unsuccessful people refuse to do.” 

Sometimes that will entail stepping out of our “comfort zones” — in fact, it almost surely will demand as much. Unpleasant? Sure, but that’s the way of a dependably froward world. Get over it — and get going.

Some speculate, for instance, Rafferty’s dogged refusal to consistently tour accounted, at least in part, for his post-Night Owl material’s failure to take off. No denying, he continued delivering some terrific music — but few ever heard about it because he shunned the requisite rounds promoting it.

– Maximal success requires self-control.

Slap-dash living, subservience to our appetites, our moods, our fickle preferences? These debilitating inclinations are fatal to personal development and productiveness. Imagine being a colossal artistic presence — and sacrificing it all over an acerbic personality and passion for the bottle. If there’s anything more heart-breakingly scandalous than that, I’m having a tough time laying my finger on it.

– Maximal success requires an appreciation of the principle of “stewardship”.

The Creator lends to each person particular strengths, capabilities, opportunities. He expects him/her to do something redemptive with them. Genesis 1’s foundational “be fruitful and multiply” mandate doesn’t just have to do with bearing physical offspring — it’s the battle-cry of a consequential life.

Recall the “Parable of the Talents” (Mt. 25): the Master’s indignant response to his servant who diddled-away what had been entrusted to him wasn’t pretty. Wasted skills, wasted occasions, wasted resources — an offense to God.

Gifting confers responsibility. Again, when such consignments are irresponsibly squandered, the broader world is denied participation in a Divine investment never cultivated by the recipient.

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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