Rab Noakes obituary

On stage, Rab Noakes was an immaculately dressed singer and tremendous guitarist who would possibly play virtually something. There might be Scottish conventional songs, American nation ballads, or songs by his heroes Bob Dylan and the Everly Brothers, by means of to tracks by Cliff Richard, Speaking Heads or Beck Hansen.

And together with the “interpretations” (he hated the phrase covers), there have been his personal songs, which confirmed his reward for melody, his love of Americana and his capability to write down about a variety of topics, and ranged from tributes to different musicians, comparable to his nice good friend Gerry Rafferty, to the defiant That Won’t Stop Me, written after he had been handled for most cancers, or Water Is My Friend, a music about hydration and reward for the NHS.

Rab, who has died immediately aged 75, performed a singular function within the Scottish music scene, due to his encyclopedic musical data, his highly effective songwriting, and his enthusiasm for nice songs and musicians. He began enjoying and writing within the Sixties, working with Rafferty, with whom he based Stealers Wheel (although he left earlier than the band signed a contract and made hit information). His songs have been additionally recorded by one other bestselling band, Lindisfarne, with whom he toured.

He recorded a sequence of solo albums for main report labels, usually with the assistance of well-known producers, however by no means notched up the anticipated hits. However he saved going at an age when many musicians would possibly consider retiring, and his later work was as highly effective and authentic as something in his early profession.

Rab Noakes, left, in Amsterdam in 1973 with Stealers Wheel, with, from second left, DeLisle Harper, Luther Grosvenor, Rod Coombes, Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty. Noakes left the band before they signed a record contract.
Rab Noakes, left, in Amsterdam in 1973 with Stealers Wheel, with, from second left, DeLisle Harper, Luther Grosvenor, Rod Coombes, Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty. Noakes left the band earlier than they signed a report contract. {Photograph}: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

He beloved to collaborate. He toured with the Scottish Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, and with the American singer-songwriter Brooks Williams, with whom he had just lately completed recording an album of Don Everly songs.

With the singer Barbara Dickson, an outdated good friend, he recorded Reunited in 2014 and final toured in September. She described him as “an amazing life power … a implausible songwriter and fantastic guitarist. Individuals would watch from the entrance row with binoculars to see what he was doing”.

He additionally constructed up a following amongst younger Scottish musicians, a number of of whom who have been getting ready to play on his subsequent album. Roddy Hart described “a way of kinship although we have been separated by a long time, when it comes to age … he was a part of the historic material of Scottish music.”. Jill Jackson described how Rab was her mentor when she was 16 “and he taught me all the pieces I knew, performing, writing, recording. I used to be as soon as late for a gig because the assist act, and he requested how a lot that they had paid me. I mentioned £50, and he mentioned ‘hand it to me’ and took the cash – and I used to be by no means late for a gig once more! He turned an unimaginable good friend.”

Residing in Glasgow, it was inevitable that Rab would change into concerned with Celtic Connections, the annual pageant that includes Scottish music, Americana and different international kinds. Its inventive producer Donald Shaw described how he and Rab spent hours discussing the musical hyperlinks between Glasgow and America, how Woodie Guthrie as soon as visited the Broomielaw bars, and the way the normal singer Josh MacRae would despatched tapes from the Broomielaw to Pete Seeger, who would cross them to Dylan.

Shaw booked Rab to play on the pageant, and he performed a significant function in tribute exhibits to Rafferty, the singer-songwriter Michael Marra and Martyn Bennett, who had combined Scottish folks with electronica.

“He was necessary for making the connection between outdated Scots and new Americana music”, mentioned Shaw. “Scotland has discovered its personal voice by wanting outwards fairly than inwards within the final 30 or 40 years … he helped to bridge that hole. I consider him as a catalyst between totally different kinds, younger and outdated”.

Rab was born in St Andrews, Fife, the son of Robert Noakes, a postal employee, and Elsie (nee Ogilvie), a neighborhood authorities officer and newbie singer. The household moved to Cupar, the place Rab attended Fortress Hill major after which Bell Baxter highschool, the place he first met Davie Craig and Artie Trezise, buddies with whom he would go on to make music.

Rab Noakes on stage, around 1980.
Rab Noakes on stage, round 1980. {Photograph}: Tony Russell/Getty Photos

Leaving college at 16 he joined the civil service, working as a pensions and nationwide insurance coverage clerk, first in Alloa, then Glasgow and London. However he was additionally making a reputation busking and enjoying the folks membership circuit. He made his first skilled look in Glasgow in 1967 and in 1969 spent “9 weeks, seven days every week, 4 hours an evening” enjoying in a lodge in Denmark with Craig.

In the identical 12 months he met Rafferty, in Billy Connolly’s father’s home in Glasgow. They remained shut buddies and in 1971 he performed on Rafferty’s solo album Can I Have My Cash Again?, earlier than deciding to not stay with him in Stealers Wheel (though he nonetheless generally performed dwell with them). By now he had met Lindisfarne, who recorded his Turn a Deaf Ear on their 1970 debut Properly Out of Tune, and Together Forever on their bestselling Fog on the Tyne in 1971.

Rab was now following his personal path. He joined Dickson, Craig and Trezise, and different musicians from throughout the area, within the Nice Fife Highway Present, which toured Scotland in 1970, and in the identical 12 months he launched his first album, Do You See the Lights? A second solo album, Rab Noakes, was launched in 1972, produced by Bob Johnston, who had labored with Dylan, whereas Crimson Pump Particular (1973) was produced in Nashville by Elliot Mazer, famed for his work with Neil Younger.

Its songs included Branch, which he sang on the BBC TV present The Outdated Gray Whistle Check, however it failed to supply any hits. Later albums included By no means Too Late (1975) and Stressed (1978), produced by Terry Melcher, famed for his work with the Byrds, and which included backing vocals by Rafferty and Dickson.

As soon as often called a heavy drinker, Rab gave up alcohol in 1982. Along with his pop profession apparently stalled, he moved to the BBC, the place he made use of his huge musical data and love of radio, working in Manchester after which Glasgow, as a senior music producer. He stop in 1995 to start out a manufacturing firm, Neon, with Stephy Pordage, whom he married in 1998. This was adopted by a label, Neon Data, and now his profession blossomed, as he turned a maverick unbiased shaking up the Scottish music scene.

His latest releases included I’m Walkin’ Here (2015), The Treatment Tapes (his 2016 reply to Dylan’s Basement Tapes, following a most cancers operation) and Welcome to Anniversaryville (2018).

An lively member of the Musicians’ Union, he served on its govt committee for 16 years till he stood down in 2020. As a performer who beloved assembly different musicians and music followers within the media, he was one of many present organisers of the London lunches that he christened “the SCRIBs”: Songwriters, Composers, Rockers, Inky-fingered maniacs (writers & publicists) and Broadcasters. He usually sang, and was at all times the best-dressed man within the room.

Stephy died final 12 months. His first marriage, to Marianne Mitchelson, led to divorce. Rab is survived by his brothers, Alan and Ken.

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