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Take a Deep Dive Into the History of Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ Sax Riff

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The word “iconic” is sorely overused, but if there’s a sax riff in rock history that deserves it, it’s probably the one that Gerry Rafferty‘s “Baker Street” its palpable air of melancholy cool.

Adam Chandler of the Atlantic delves into the history of the “Baker Street” sax, and though neither of the men responsible for it is still with us — Rafferty passed away in 2011, and Raphael Ravenscroft, the musician who played the riff, died last year — there’s still plenty of obscure information well worth digging into in the piece, whether or not you’re a fan.

For starters, Chandler looks into whether Ravenscroft really wrote the riff, as he’s quoted as claiming to have done, and finds plenty of evidence to support Rafferty’s authorship — but then, after digging a little deeper, discovers that those instantly recognizable notes may have been lifted from an obscure jazz LP that flitted through U.K record shops a decade before “Baker Street” was recorded.

Stranger still, the earlier track in question — “Half a Heart,” by sax player Steve Marcus — boasts a songwriting credit attributed to another musician, vibraphone player Gary Burton, who agreed to an email interview even though he claimed that not only did he not actually write “Half a Heart,” he’d never heard “Baker Street” before.

It all adds up to a fascinating stroll through a less-explored corner of rock history, and a reminder that there are a thousand stories behind every hit song if we only know how to look for them. Check out the complete article at the link above, and compare “Half a Heart” against “Baker Street” below.

Listen to Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’

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Listen to Steve Marcus’ ‘Half a Heart’

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