Rick Davies, 2002
|Birth name||Richard Davies|
|Born||22 July 1944|
|Origin||Swindon, Wiltshire, England|
|Genres||Progressive rock, Pop rock, Art rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, harmonica, drums|
|Labels||A&M, Rick Davies Productions|
Richard "Rick" Davies (born 22 July 1944, in Swindon, Wiltshire, England) is an English musician, best known as the founder, vocalist and keyboardist of progressive rock band Supertramp. Davies is the only member of Supertramp to have been with the group for their entire history, and has composed many of their most well-known songs, including "Goodbye Stranger", "Bloody Well Right", "My Kind of Lady", and "Cannonball". He is generally noted for his sophisticated blues and jazz-influenced progressive rock compositions and cynical lyrics.
Starting with Indelibly Stamped in 1971, Davies shared lead vocals with Supertramp songwriting partner, Roger Hodgson until the latter's departure in 1983, at which point he became the sole lead vocalist of the group. Davies's voice is more distinctly masculine than Hodgson's, and he usually employs a raspy baritone which stands in stark contrast to his bandmate's childlike tenor. However, he occasionally sings in a falsetto which superficially resembles Hodgson's vocals, such as on "Goodbye Stranger" and "My Kind of Lady". He also plays harmonica for the group.
Richard Davies was born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1944 to Betty and Dick Davies. Betty was a hairdresser and ran a salon, and Dick was a merchant navy man, who died in 1973. Rick went to Sanford Street School and, according to mother Betty: “Music was the only thing he was any good at at school."
His first musical stirrings were at the age of eight, when his parents gave him a secondhand radiogram which included a few records left by the previous owner. Among them were Drummin’ Man by drumming legend Gene Krupa, and, in Davies’s own words, “it hit like a thunderbolt”. ”I must have played it 2,000 times,” he said. “That was it." A friend of the family made Rick a makeshift drum kit out of a biscuit tin, and at the age of 12 he joined the British Railways Staff Association Brass and Silver Jubilee Band as a snare drummer. In an interview in 2002 he said: “As a kid, I used to hear the drums marching along the street in England, in my home town, when there was some kind of parade, and it was the most fantastic sound to me. Then, eventually, I got some drums and I took lessons. I was serious about it... I figured if I could do that – I mean a real drummer, read music and play with big bands, rock bands, classical, Latin, and know what I was going to do – I would be in demand and my life was set... Eventually, I started fiddling with the keyboards, and that seemed to go over better than my drumming, for some reason. So you’ve gotta go with what people react to." He never had lessons for keyboards, but, according to Betty Davies, “taught himself most of what he knows about music”. Davies, however, continued to play drums and can be heard playing on record for Chick Churchill's 1973 album You and Me. Early Supertramp member Richard Palmer-James called Davies one of the "best drummers I've ever played with".
By 1959, his attention had been captured by rock ‘n’ roll, and he joined a band called Vince and the Vigilantes. In 1962, while studying in the art department at Swindon College, he formed his own band, called Rick’s Blues, and was now playing a Hohner electric piano instead of drums. The band included Gilbert O'Sullivan on drums for a time; he later was the best man at Davies's wedding. In a March 1972 interview, O'Sullivan said that "Rick had originally taught me how to play the drums and piano – in fact, he taught me everything about music." When his father became ill, Davies disbanded Rick’s Blues, left college, and took a job as a welder at Square D, a firm making industrial control products and systems, which had a factory on the Cheney Manor Trading Estate in Swindon. Any hopes of an artistic career were temporarily put on ice.
In 1966 he became the organist for The Lonely Ones (best known for being one of Noel Redding's first bands, though Redding had left by the time Davies joined), who later changed their name to The Joint and recorded the soundtracks for a number of German films. He later confessed that he lied about his abilities to get into the group, admitting he couldn’t actually play the organ at the time. While the band was in Munich, Davies met Dutch millionaire Stanley August Miesegaes, who offered to fund him if he started a new group.
Davies decided to form a new band and returned home from Switzerland to place an ad in the music magazine Melody Maker in August 1969. Roger Hodgson was auditioned and, despite their contrasting backgrounds – Davies’s working class upbringing and Hodgson’s public school education – they struck up an instant rapport and began writing virtually all of their songs together. The band was initially called Daddy, but renamed Supertramp in January 1970.
Supertramp became one of the first acts to sign to the emerging A&M Records, and by the summer of 1970 they had recorded their first album, simply called Supertramp. Hodgson performed the lion's share of the lead vocals on this first effort, but by the time of their second album Indelibly Stamped, Davies had stepped up as a singer, and he and Hodgson were sharing lead vocal duties equally.
After five years with Davies and Hodgson as the mainstays of a continuously changing group, Supertramp settled into a stable lineup and recorded Crime of the Century, which finally brought them critical and commercial success when it was released in 1974. It reached number four in the UK Albums Chart. Though their singles were only moderately successful, their albums consistently scored high in the charts. Davies's relationship with Hodgson had begun to deteriorate, and the two began writing most of their songs separately again, though they agreed to have them all credited to Davies/Hodgson by contract.
By 1977 they had relocated to the United States, and it was there that they recorded their best-selling album, Breakfast in America. With more hit singles than their first five albums combined, it reached number three in the UK, and top of the charts in America. The album is reckoned to have sold over 20 million copies since its release on 29 March 1979.
In 1983, Hodgson quit. Davies's relationship with him had worn down to almost nonexistence, and the group's last hit before his departure, "My Kind of Lady", featured little involvement from him as either a writer or performer. The song was a showcase for Davies's vocal range, with him singing in everything from a booming bass to a piercing falsetto to his natural raspy baritone. With Davies now firmly at the helm, Supertramp returned to a more non-commercial, progressive rock-oriented approach. The band continued to tour and record for another five years before disbanding, with a mutual agreement between the members that Supertramp had run its course.
In 1997, during work on what would have been his first solo album, Davies decided to reform Supertramp. The group promptly returned to recording and touring, yielding another two studio albums before splitting again. Supertramp reunited in 2010 for their 70–10 tour.
Davies married his wife Sue (who has been Supertramp's manager since 1984) in 1977.
Davies' mother died in late 2008 at a nursing home in Stratton St Margaret; Davies travelled from his Long Island, New York home every Christmas to visit her. His last trip back was in January 2009 to organise a memorial party for his mother.
Davies currently owns Rick Davies Productions which is the copyright holder of Supertramp's recordings.
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