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Roger Whittaker

With his avuncular appearance and rich baritone, African-born British pop singer Roger Whittaker seemed like a late successor to Bing Crosby when he emerged into worldwide popularity in the '70s. Although his initial hits were self-written, he quickly turned largely to interpretive singing as he recorded prolifically. With the front line of the popular music business dominated by young performers playing pop/rock, he and his music soon encountered resistance from radio and the music press. Also, the U.S. was one of the last regions of the world to acknowledge him, and he never focused primarily on America, resulting in an underestimation of his stardom stateside, where he was thought of as a one-hit wonder for "The Last Farewell." But he maintained a large following in Europe and the Far East where he performed frequently, resulting in sales that were estimated at 40 million albums worldwide by the early '90s.

The son of immigrants from Staffordshire, England, Whittaker was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 22, 1936. His father, Edward Whittaker, owned a grocery store, for which his mother, Viola Whittaker, kept the books; she later worked as a teacher. He took up the guitar at the age of seven and learned to sing songs in Swahili, but did not think of music as a career until much later. In 1956, he entered the University of Cape Town, South Africa as a medical student, but flunked out in his second year and returned to Nairobi, where he taught primary school and performed in nightclubs. In September 1959, he moved to the U.K. and began attending Bangor University in Wales, where he studied science with the intention of furthering his teaching career. But he continued to sing in clubs, and in the early '60s, a few of his recordings were issued on flexi-discs included with a campus publication, the Bangor University Rag, and credited to Hank & the Mellomen, to raise money for charity. This brought him to the attention of Fontana Records, which signed him to a contract and released his first professional single, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," credited to Rog Whittaker, in 1962. His second single was a cover of American country singer Jimmy Dean's "Steel Men." It gave him his first chart entry near the bottom of the New Musical Express Top 30 in June 1962, just as he was passing his final exams. So, instead of going on for his PhD, he acquired a manager and turned to singing full-time, soon gaining a residency on This and That, a television show in Ulster, Northern Ireland. The next few years he struggled to make a living on the British cabaret circuit, but in the spring of 1967 he won a prize at the Knokke Song Festival in Belgium, leading to recordings of his composition "The Mexican Whistler" and his version of "If I Were a Rich Man" from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Both became hits in Europe, breaking him as a headlining concert attraction on the continent.

By 1968, Whittaker had switched record labels to EMI, which released his discs on its Columbia imprint (no relation to the American Columbia Records). In the fall of 1969, he scored his first Top 20 hit in Britain with the self-written "Durham Town (The Leavin')." He was signed to RCA Victor Records for the U.S., and in the spring of 1970 another of his compositions, the sunny, uptempo "New World in the Morning," became a Top 20 hit on the American Easy Listening chart. At the same time, his British single was the melodramatic, anti-war original "I Don't Believe in 'If' Anymore," which reached the pop Top Ten. In the U.S., "I Don't Believe in 'If' Anymore" followed "New World in the Morning" and became a Top 30 Easy Listening hit that summer; in the U.K., "New World in the Morning" followed "I Don't Believe in 'If' Anymore" and became a Top 20 pop hit that fall. In the U.S., RCA released Whittaker's first American album, New World in the Morning, while in the U.K., an album titled I Don't Believe in "If" Anymore gave him his first chart LP as he accepted offers to host a children's television show and a radio series. ("New World in the Morning" went on to become one of his more valuable copyrights as a songwriter, earning covers by Eddy Arnold and Al Martino, among others.)

Whittaker continued his success on both sides of the Atlantic and, indeed, around the world, in 1971. The philosophical "Why?," for which he had composed the music to a lyric submitted by amateur writer Joan Stanton as part of a contest on his radio show, reached the American Easy Listening chart and the British pop chart, and it won the U.K.'s coveted Ivor Novello songwriting award for 1971-1972. Whittaker also returned to Britain LP chart with his New World in the Morning album and made the U.K. Top 40 with "Mammy Blue." He also released the album A Special Kind of Man, which included "The Last Farewell," a romantic ballad of war and separation he had composed and set to lyrics sent in by another amateur writer, Ron Webster, as part of the same radio competition that produced "Why?"

Whittaker had another British television series in 1972, this time one for grown-ups, and he continued to record and perform around the world over the next few years, though without coming up with another hit. Then in the winter of 1975 "The Last Farewell" belatedly began to attract attention in the U.S. after the wife of an Atlanta radio programmer heard it on vacation in Canada and induced her husband to put it on the air. The four-year-old track was released as a single that topped the easy listening chart and made the Top 20 of the pop chart, before going on to become an international hit with reported sales of 11 million copies. It peaked at number two in the U.K. during the summer and won Whittaker a second Ivor Novello Award. (It also attracted numerous cover versions, including one by Elvis Presley on his 1976 LP From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee.) Meanwhile, RCA (which had previously dropped Whittaker and then hastily re-signed him) released the compilation album The Last Farewell and Other Hits in the U.S., and the LP reached the Top 40 of the pop charts and the Top Ten of the country charts on its way to gold-record certification. In Britain, the compilation The Very Best of Roger Whittaker reached the Top Ten.

As he turned 40 in 1976, Whittaker undertook his first U.S. tour. "Durham Town (The Leavin')" belatedly made the easy listening chart, followed in mid-year by the Top 20 "The First Hello, The Last Goodbye," co-written by the singer. In the U.K., his chart LP for the year was The Second Album of the Very Best of Roger Whittaker. He returned to the American easy listening chart in February 1977 with "Before She Breaks My Heart," and while RCA's release of The Best of Roger Whittaker in March never made the charts, it sold well enough over the next several years to be certified gold in 1980. Meanwhile, he hosted another TV series, Whittaker's World of Music, in Britain in 1977.

From the late '70s into the early '80s, Whittaker continued to score minor chart entries in the U.S. and the U.K. while touring around the world. In America, his Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart entries were "If I Knew Just What to Say" (1978) and the self-penned "You Are My Miracle" (1979), while his albums When I Need You (1979), Mirrors of My Mind (1979), Voyager (1980), Roger Whittaker with Love (1980), and Live in Concert (1981) made the bottom half of the Top 200. In the U.K., the chart hits were all compilation albums: Roger Whittaker Sings the Hits (1978), 20 All Time Greats (1979), and The Roger Whittaker Album (1981). He also addressed his non-English-speaking audience by singing phonetically in other languages, releasing Mein Deutsches Album in West Germany in 1979, for example. In 1982, he scored a number one hit in West Germany with "Albany," and the same year he returned to Kenya for the first time in two decades, commemorating the occasion with the 1984 album and documentary In Kenya: A Musical Safari.

He had toured the U.S. in 1980, but he didn't return until 1983. In the late '70s, he had launched his own Tembo Records company (tembo is the word for elephant in Swahili). Tembo licensed his recordings to Main Street Records in the U.S., and the label made a push to establish him as a country singer, getting "I Love You Because" into the lower reaches of the country chart in late 1983 and achieving a six-month country chart run for All Time Heart Touching Favorites in 1984. But by 1985, he was back to releasing his records through RCA in the U.S. In the fall of 1986, he returned to the British Top Ten with "The Skye Boat Song," in a duet with comedian Des O'Conner, and he continued to chart LPs in the U.K. occasionally over the next decade: Skye Boat Song and Other Great Songs (1986), His Finest Collection (1987), Home Lovin' Man (1989), and A Perfect Day -- His Greatest Hits & More (1996). Often, his albums repackaged older recordings with perhaps one or two new tracks. Thus, if he did make a new album, it was an event. When Awakening appeared on RCA in the U.S. in 1999, a sticker affixed to the front cover proclaimed: "The first totally original Whittaker album in over seven years. Contains all new material!"

After completing a tour of Germany (by then his strongest market) in 2001, a 65-year-old Whittaker announced his retirement from performing and settled down with his wife of 37 years in Ireland. Like many musical performers, however, he was unable to hold to this declaration and was back on tour in Germany in 2003, with plans for more recordings and concerts planned years ahead. ~ William Ruhlmann
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: New World In The Morning

1. New World In The Morning

2. Time In A Bottle

4. You Are My Miracle

5. Sunrise, Sunset

6. Durham Town (The Leavin')

7. The Last Farewell

8. Kilgary Mountain

9. Dirty Old Town


Track List: I Will Always Love You

1. A Whole New World

2. Everything I Do, I Do For You

3. When I Fall In Love

4. Somewhere My Love

5. Beauty And The Beast

6. Evergreen

7. Wind Beneath My Wings

8. Unchained Melody

9. Somewhere Out There

10. High

11. What A Wonderful World

12. Sunrise, Sunset

13. You've Lost That Loving Feeling

14. Born Free

15. I Will Always Love You


Track List: Greatest Hits

1. 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

9. Albany

10. The Wind Beneath My Wings

11. The Skye Boat Song (Des O'Conner)


Track List: Danny Boy & Other Irish Favorites

1. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

2. Down By The Sally Gardens

3. Forty Shades Of Green

4. The Rose Of Tralee

5. Giant Land

6. Star Of The County Down

7. Irish Whistler

8. The Unicorn

9. The Minstrel Boy

10. I'll Tell Me Ma

11. Rooney

12. The Rising Of The Lark

13. Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms

14. Uncle Benny

15. Danny Boy

16. Kilgary Mountain


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Heard this song by Elvis good but not like Roger Whittaker.
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Roger Whitaker one of the best voices in the music industry... I think the best song The Last Farewell !
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Can I get"when I need you".
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My wife and I saw Roger in concert at South Lake Tahoe in the 80's. Will never forget evening. Fantastic entertainer! ! !
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I love listening to Roger . Doris
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He is one of a kind!
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Greatest singer ever
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I discovered Roger while I was in the Army back In the early 80's. Still enjoy listening to him
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I think this is one of the top radio stations ever!
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Yes plea

Yes an update! What is he doing now?

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How about an update, it 2016
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I discovered Roger while in New Zealand in 1974 I have loved his music since and have turned others on to his music the US missed out until later
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I attended a Roger Whittaker concert while attending NCSU in Raleigh, NC in the early 80's and really enjoyed a wonderful event. Thank you so much for a half century of wonderful song and whistle! such clarity!
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One of the all-time greats...
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Will always be an all time favorite of married children and grand kids as well. When they hear his Christmas songs they get homesick for home
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One of Dad's favorites
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This song sounds a lot like ' We are the World mnn perhaps part were taken from this Roger Whittaker song. Not sure who wrote it.
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My wife and I saw Roger in Boise ,Idaho and just loved his concert... He can sure whistle too !!!! Enjoyed the evening so much and will always have found memories of his concert ... Thank You Roger
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I have loved Roger's music from the first time I heard it many years ago. His voice is mellow and comforting to listen to.
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I'm looking for the song When I Need You. Any suggestions?
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When my only child, a son, was born the tape i chose to listen to in the labor room was Roger's. I was 42 years old and scared. His voice got me through it as it soothed and distracted me. I still love and listen to that tape and several cds I've acquired since. By the way, i turned a young 70 yesterday!

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he is with me while cooking, sewing gardening... y e a r s from now when i can longer do these things i love, i will still be listening to him with deep nostalgia
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How about adding his German language albums!
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After 2 years you still haven't added to Roger Whittaker. I think I have more of his music than you do ! I have 7 albums in my collection listing 69 songs
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I always knew about his signature song,The Last Farewell) but Ijust recently found his other music, having seen an older video on YouTube. I was awestruck and in love - instantly. His voice is like no other, and to me, there is any one better. His voice puts me in a place I could stay in forever. It has helped me through hard times recently as I just lost my husband. The younger Roger reminds me of what my husband must have looked like when he was that age. Thank you, Roger Whittaker.
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garrickconne c t i o n
Roger whittager had to exist to fulfill all the great music of yesterday
Without him there would be something missing! Gary Williams
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I went to his performance to hear Roger sing in Duluth Minnesota in the early 90's. Two things made that occasion very good. First, as he performed he would chat between songs about details of his life in earlier days. Second, after the show he came back out to chat with a small group who had waited to have the commemorativ e book signed.
More than twenty years later in Fulda, Germany, I watched Roger perform again. He sang most of his German hits and several in English too.
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I bought the the current coommemorati v e book but it remained unsigned. My thoughts; In Duluth I went to hear music but met the man as well to my great pleasure. In Fulda I went to meet the man but only heard the music. My expectations were perhaps unreasonable but I could not help feeling disappointed . I admire the man and his music. I always shall admire such a unique entertainer.
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edwardwillia m 3 8
i wish i could had seen him in person, but that didn't happen so I just enjoy his music.
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Pure Artist!!!
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caren_philli p s
Love, love, LOVE his voice!
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I've been a fan for over 40 years, got to see him live in Canada about 23 years ago- glad he's still touring, sad that it's in Germany- maybe I'll get lucky and will see him again in concert
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My wife threatened to divorce me if I took her to another Roger Whittaker concert! Heard him sing several times in the Buffalo, NY area and at Chautauqua Institute. A warm, resonant voice and a great stage prescence! Keep on singing, Roger!!!!
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One of the most amazing voices of all time.
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I'm so happy i finally found him! yes he is the best! he brings back alot of found memories.
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I'm so happy i finally found him! yes he is the best! he brings back alot of found memories.
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It is the essence of harmony. He should be more popular. :)
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I'm so happy i finally found him! yes he is the best! he brings back alot of found memories.
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So many family memories listening to the great voice and melodies of Roger Whttaker! He is a legend!
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Great voice and family memories flood back listening to Roger-so happy her is alive and well!
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Love, Love, Love the music.
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Just play MORE of his music. I have him listed/ selected and in 30 min you played 1 repeate 1 song. Don't you have more of him ????
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The absolute best.
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a beautiful song, no matter who sings it!!!!!
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I think he has a beautiful voice,I have always enjoyed his music.
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I just love this artist. I could listen to him all day
Saw him in Baltimore and enjoyed him so much
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sweet tones
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Love his singing this is my style of music. Very calming and soothing!
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Roger is so clearly just one of the best. Saw him on Maui awhile back and he was great.
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I received as a gift the German tape Roger Whittaker Zum Weinen ist immer noch Zeit. His lyrics and his beat are appealing to me and I would love to find a way to getting the written lyrics, so I can sing along in German. I bought a later release R.W. 50 years of Classic Hit - doesn't grab me the same as the German recordings. Where can I get the words. Thanks so much~ erikawitt@ms n . c o m - Enjoying your service so much, thanks
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