Folk singer Roger Whittaker, famous for his 1969 hit song Durham Town and expert whistling, has died at the age of 87. His other hits included The Last Farewell and New World in the Morning, and he sold nearly 50 million records around the world, his website said
- New World In The Morning
- 2.Durham Town
- 3.I Don’t Believe In If Anymore
- 4.Mexican Whistler
- 5.The Last Farewell
- 6.I Am But A Small Voice
- 7.River Lady
- 8.You Are My Miracle
- 10.The Wind Beneath My Wings
- 11.The Skye Boat SongTo further his teaching career, Whittaker moved to Britain in September 1959. For the next three years, he studied zoology, biochemistry and marine biology at University College of North Wales and earned a Bachelor of Science degree while singing in local clubs, and released songs on flexi discs included with the campus newspaper, the Bangor University Rag.
Shortly afterwards, he was signed to Fontana Records, which released his first professional single, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, in 1962. (On the labels of the Fontana singles, he is billed as “Rog Whittaker”.) In the summer of 1962, Whittaker performed in Portrush, Northern Ireland. He achieved a breakthrough when he was signed to appear on an Ulster Television show called This and That.His second single was a cover version of “Steel Men”, released in June 1962.
In 1966, Whittaker switched from Fontana to EMI’s Columbia label, and was billed as Roger Whittaker from this point forward. His fourth single for the imprint was “Durham Town (The Leavin’)”, which in 1969 became Whittaker’s first UK Top 20 hit in the UK Singles Chart. Whittaker’s US label, RCA Victor, released the uptempo “New World in the Morning” in 1970, where it became a Top 20 hit in Billboard magazine’s Easy Listening chart. That same year, his downbeat theme song “No Blade of Grass”, written for the film adaptation of the same name that was sung during both the opening and ending titles, became his first film credit.
In the early 1970s, Whittaker took interest in the Nordic countries when he recorded the single “Where the Angels Tread” (Änglamarken) to the music of Evert Taube in 1972. In 1974 he performed at the Finnish Eurovision qualifications.The song “The Finnish Whistler” he performed became famous in Finland as it was used as a title music for the popular Finnish Yle television cooking programme Patakakkonen.
In 1975, EMI released “The Last Farewell”, a track from his 1971 New World in the Morning album. It became his biggest hit and a signature song, selling more than 11 million copies worldwide. In 1979, Whittaker wrote the song “Call My Name” which reached the final of the UK Eurovision selection, A Song For Europe, performed by Eleanor Keenan and came third. Whittaker recorded the song himself and the single charted in several European countries. Released in December 1983, his version of Leon Payne’s “I Love You Because” spent four weeks in the US Hot Country charts, peaking at number 91.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Whittaker had success in Germany, with German-language songs produced by Nick Munro. Unable to speak German, Whittaker sang the songs phonetically. He appeared on German television and was on the UK Top of the Pops show several times in the 1970s. Whittaker’s German-language songs were not initially well received by some critics, who derided the songs as “meaningless folk music”. Notwithstanding this, Whittaker released 25 albums in Germany and gained a considerable fan base in that country; he felt his most loyal fans were there, saying at one point: “The past few decades have been wonderful … My relationship with the German fans is great.”
In March 2006, Whittaker announced on his website that a 2007 Germany tour would be his last, and that he would limit future performances to “occasional concerts”. Now more fluent in German, he was seen singing and was interviewed in German on Danish television in November 2008. In a 2014 interview, Whittaker reiterated that he had retired from touring in 2013, but said that he had written 18 new songs for an album and said “I still whistle very well”.