Folk singer Roger Whittaker best known for hits Durham Town and New World in the Morning dies aged 87 as his family pay tribute to the ‘iconic artist’
Roger Whittaker, one of the UK’s most celebrated folk music singers and best-known as an expert whilster, has died aged 87.
A family statement, reported by German media outlet Bild, confirmed he died on September 13 in a hospital in southern France.
Whittaker was best known for hits including Durham Town, New World In The Morning and a version of Wind Beneath My Wings.
He went on to achieve great success in folk music clubs and saw further fame when he collaborated with Des O’Connor for the Skye Boat Song in 1986.
‘Roger was an iconic artist, a wonderful husband and father. He touched so many hearts with his music throughout his life and will always live on in our memories,’ the family statement said.
Roger Whittaker, one of the UK’s most celebrated folk music singers, has died aged 87
Whittaker was best known for hits including Durham Town, New World In The Morning and a version of Wind Beneath My Wings
Roger Whittaker pictured with his wife Natalie and their then-baby daughter Jessica
Whittaker was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1936 to English parents. His father had been medically advised to live in a warmer climate after suffering from serious injuries sustained in a motorcycling accident.
His father ran a successful grocery business while his mother was a teacher. Their children were raised by African nannies and before learning English, he spoke Swahili.
He enrolled at university in South Africa after two years of national military service.
He arrived in Britain in 1959 to study zoology, biochemistry and marine biology at the University of Bangor in Wales, with his first major release, Steel Men, entering the British charts as he sat his final degree exams.
Whittaker went on to sell close to 50 million records and receive 250 platinum, gold and silver awards during his career.
Germany afforded the artist particularly high levels of fame and reputation as he could sing and record his songs in German.
His 1975 song The Last Farewell reached No 1 in 11 countries, and even Elvis Presley recorded a version of it.
In 1986, he published his autobiography with the help of his wife Natalie.
Whittaker also played at George Bush Snr’s golden wedding anniversary party.
After a heart attack in 2006, he announced he would run a final tour in Germany in 2007.
He retired from singing in 2012 and lived with his wife in France.
Aside from playing his beloved music, Whittaker was a keen collector of antiques, and possessed 18th-century French furniture, silver spoons and insects dried in amber.
He appeared occasionally on television to be interviewed. In 2014, he told a reporter that despite his retirement, he had written 18 new songs and joked: ‘I still whistle very well’.
Whittaker, pictured with Cilla Black, retired from singing in 2012 after a very successful career
Whittaker went on to achieve great success in folk music clubs and sold almost 50 million records
Whittaker pictured performing on stage during the ‘Autumn Festival of Folk Music’ in the exhibition hall of Erfurt, Germany, in October 2010
Whittaker entered the charts while doing his final year exams at university. It was the start of an award-winning career
Whittaker, pictured with Shirley Bassey, earned over 250 silver, gold and platinum awards during his career
Tributes from across the English and German-speaking world were led by comedian and TV presenter Matt Lucas, who tweeted: ‘The great Roger Whittaker has passed away. I adored Durham Town and The Last Farewell.
‘Beautiful, warm, catchy songs. I am glad I got to see him perform live.’
Whittaker leaves behind his wife Natalie, who he married in 1964, and their five children – Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Guy and Alexander. They had 11 grandchildren.
He was cremated and buried in a private ceremony on Saturday, Bild said.
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