Roger Whittaker performs during rehearsals for the “ZDF Hitparty” on in 2007, in Cologne, Germany. The British singer-songwriter has died at 87.
Getty Images, File
Folk singer Roger Whittaker, known for hits “Durham Town” and “The Last Farewell,” has died. He was 87.
“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,” reads a statement that his friend, Jesse Waggoner, posted on Whittaker’s Facebook page on Monday. “We are thankful that the gift of his music remains with us.”
USA TODAY has reached out to a representative for Whittaker for more information.
A photo on the singer’s website pays tribute to Whittaker, who was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to parents who hailed from Staffordshire, England, in 1936. The multi-lingual musician was known for his whistling and cultivated a passionate fanbase in Germany over the course of his career after performing there in 1976, according to his website. He sang German, learning the language phonetically.
Roger Whittaker initially ‘didn’t have any faith’ in his most popular song, ‘Durham Town’
After serving in the Kenya Regiment, Whittaker went into teaching in the ‘50s and sang in local clubs during that time. By the time he moved to the U.K. to study zoology, biochemistry and marine biology at the University of Bangor in Wales, he started writing his own songs.
“Faced with the dilemma of which career to choose, Roger sought the advice from his professor,” reads Whittaker’s bio on his website. “‘Take your chance,’ he was advised. ‘Have a try in show business and if you haven’t made it in ten years, come back here and teach. I shall always have a place at the university for you.’”
In the fall of 1969, Whittaker’s record company released his song “The Leavin’ (Durham Town),” and it soon climbed the music charts.
“I just didn’t have any faith in that song at all,” Whittaker recalled. “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 rapidly climbing the British charts.
In 1971, Whittaker recorded one of his more popular songs, “The Last Farewell.” The song, written by a silversmith from Birmingham, England, “broke down the barriers to success in America for Whittaker and opened up a vast new country for his music to explore,” per his website.