British singer Roger Whittaker has died at the age of 87. He had a diverse repertoire, from folk and pop music sung in French and English to German schlagers. Whittaker was also known for his whistling talent.
The singer died last week in the presence of his family, it was announced by record company Sony Music. Nothing has been reported about the cause of death.
Whittaker started his career in Great Britain in the 1960s. His biggest hit, The Last Farewell, was in the early 1970s. According to the biography on his website, Whittaker sold almost fifty million albums worldwide. He also had several top 10 hits in the Netherlands.
Roger Whittaker – The Last Farewell 1975
In recent decades, the musician was particularly popular in Germany. During his many performances there, Schön war die Zeit was always included, the schlager classic that he released in Germany in 1990. The song was covered in the same year by Corry Konings, under the title Mooi was dat Tijd.
Whittaker has also released fully whistled songs. These included Mexican Whistler in the 1960s and Irish Whistler in the 1990s.
The artist managed to produce the sound of numerous flutes with pursed lips:
Roger Whittaker – Mexican Whistle (Live on Austrian TV, 1976)
Whittaker was born in 1936 in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. At the time, the African country was still part of the British colonial empire. His parents were from Staffordshire in England.
East African music culture made an impression on him, he said in his biography. “The amazing percussion and those wonderful, infectious rhythms have played a huge role in everything I’ve ever written or sung.”
As a child, Whittaker excelled in the school choir. After high school he was called up for military service. When his mandatory military service was over, he studied zoology, biochemistry and marine biology in Great Britain.
During this training he was already very active in the studio. His second single Steel Men was picked up by national radio stations in 1962. Whittaker graduated, but did little with his degree and focused entirely on his music career.
His breakthrough came in 1967. Whittaker was part of the British team that won the Knokke Song Contest, a competition that was at the time the same size as the Eurovision Song Contest. At the festival in Belgium he sang If I Were a Rich Man and his own composition Mexican Whistler. Both songs entered the European charts.
In the 1970s the artist really became known in Great Britain and the US. That was thanks to his song The Last Farewell. This record sold 11 million copies. But Whittaker experienced his greatest success in Germany in the following years.
Singing ‘German’ phonetically
The singer released a total of 26 German-language albums. He made many tours through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Despite this, he said he did not speak the language. He sang the lyrics phonetically, according to his biography.
Whittaker has not been on stage since he was 78. In recent years he lived a secluded life. Whittaker had five children with his wife Natalie.