By John Ensor •
Published: 19 Sep 2023 • 11:09
Credit: Roger Whittaker/facebook.com
The best-selling folk musician Roger Whittaker has died at the age of 87
An official statement was issued on Facebook late on Monday, September 18: ‘It is with great sadness we share the news of Roger’s passing at age 87. His life, artistry and legacy has meant so much to so many all over the world. We are thankful that the gift of his music remains with us.’
Roger Whittaker’s illustrious journey began in the summer of 1962. At 26, he delved into songwriting and showcased his talent in Welsh folk venues. This was while he pursued studies in zoology, biochemistry, and marine biology at Bangor University, writes The Guardian.
His first significant exposure came when he was invited to perform on a Northern Irish TV programme, ‘This and That’. Known for his exceptional whistling skills, his unique piece ‘Mexican Whistler’ topped the charts in three European nations. Whittaker’s popularity was worldwide and in his career, he sold nearly 50 million records and received 250 platinum, gold and silver awards.
However, it was the release of ‘Durham Town (The Leavin’)’ that earned him a spot in the UK’s Top 20. Regarding this unexpected success, he remarked on his website, ‘I just didn’t have any faith in that song at all.’
He added, ‘Far from promoting the single in Britain, I went off to Finland for a cabaret season and television appearances.’ By the time he returned in November, ‘Durham Town’ was making waves in the UK charts.
Multi-talented Whittaker was proficient in several languages and could sing in French and German where he enjoyed popular success.
Born in Nairobi in 1936 to British parents, Whittaker’s musical style was deeply influenced by East African sounds. He once expressed, ‘In over 30 years of singing and playing musical sounds, the wonderful drumming, and those marvellous, infectious rhythms, have played a great part in everything I have ever written and sung.’
In 2012, Whittaker decided to step back from his musical journey. He leaves behind his wife, Natalie, to whom he was married for nearly six decades after a whirlwind three-month romance.
A growing list of messages from fans have poured in from all over the world. One man wrote: ‘Such sad news the loss of Roger who I was lucky to have met back in 1970 at Heathrow airport. A very kind unassuming gentleman with a very special talent. Your music will always live on in the hearts of so many. God bless you Roger.’
Another posted from Christchurch, New Zealand: ‘Condolences from New Zealand. Roger’s music has always been deeply appreciated here. RIP.’
Another overseas fan wrote: ‘Thank you for the great music and memories you have given us and you leave behind. I had the pleasure to experience him live in Herning, Denmark and Oslo, Norway.’
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
When he's not writing for EWN he enjoys gigging in a acoustic duo, looking after their four dogs, four chickens, two cats, and cycling up mountains very slowly.
What sad news! I liked Roger Whittaker’s songs and he had a lovely soothing voice. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.
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