Roger Whittaker, a beloved folk singer known for his timeless classics like “Durham Town” and “New World in the Morning,” has passed away at the age of 87.
The Whittaker family confirmed this sad news, stating that he peacefully departed on September 13 in a hospital located in southern France.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1936 to English parents, Whittaker’s journey to musical stardom was a remarkable one. His father, recovering from a serious motorcycle accident, sought a warmer climate, eventually establishing a thriving grocery business in Kenya. Growing up, Roger was surrounded by African nannies and spoke Swahili before mastering English.
His path led him to the University of Bangor in Wales in 1959, where he pursued studies in zoology, biochemistry, and marine biology. Interestingly, his musical career took off as he entered his final degree exams with the release of “Steel Men,” which climbed the British charts.
Roger Whittaker’s musical prowess knew no bounds, and he went on to sell nearly 50 million records while earning over 250 platinum, gold, and silver awards throughout his illustrious career. His versatility was especially evident in his ability to sing and record songs in German, where he garnered exceptional fame.
One of his most iconic hits, “The Last Farewell” from 1975, topped charts in 11 countries, and even Elvis Presley recorded his own rendition of the song. Additionally, in 1986, Whittaker collaborated with Des O’Connor on the memorable “Skye Boat Song.”
Beyond his musical achievements, Roger Whittaker published his autobiography in 1986 with the assistance of his wife, Natalie. He performed at George Bush Snr’s golden wedding anniversary party and continued to delight audiences with his music and signature whistling.
Following a heart attack in 2006, Whittaker announced his final tour in Germany in 2007, gracefully concluding his singing career in 2012. He and his wife Natalie settled in France, where he continued to enjoy his passion for collecting antiques, from 18th-century French furniture to silver spoons and insects preserved in amber.
Even in retirement, Roger Whittaker’s talent shone through, as he humorously remarked in 2014 that he could still whistle with expertise.
The news of Roger Whittaker’s passing has led to an outpouring of tributes and condolences from admirers worldwide. Comedian and TV presenter Matt Lucas expressed his fondness for Whittaker’s music, calling classics like “Durham Town” and “The Last Farewell” beautiful, warm, and catchy.
Roger Whittaker leaves behind his wife Natalie, whom he married in 1964, and their five children – Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Guy, and Alexander. Their family has grown with the addition of 11 grandchildren.
In a private ceremony, Roger Whittaker was cremated and laid to rest on a day that celebrated the enduring legacy of an iconic artist.