Ham on tour with Badfinger in 1972
|Birth name||Peter William Ham|
27 April 1947|
|Died||24 April 1975
Gibson Les Paul
Martin acoustic guitars
Peter William Ham (27 April 1947 – 24 April 1975) was a Welsh singer, songwriter and guitarist, best known as the lead vocalist/composer of the 1970s rock band Badfinger's hit songs, "No Matter What", "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue." He also co-wrote the ballad "Without You", a worldwide Number One hit for Harry Nilsson and it has become a standard song as covered by hundreds of artists consistently throughout the years since. Ham was granted two Ivor Novello Awards related to the song in 1973.
Ham committed suicide in 1975, when he became depressed while embroiled in band-related issues, such as label and manager problems, as well as a lack of funds.
Ham was born in Swansea, Wales. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers circa 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. The band was relocated to London by The Mojos manager, Bill Collins, in 1966, and they continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom. As it was, Ham eventually became the prominent songwriter for the band, as a Revox tape recorder was made available by Collins to encourage him. Ray Davies of The Kinks took an initial interest in the group, although tracks produced by Davies did not surface commercially until decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles' personal assistant) and were eventually signed to the Beatles' Apple Records label after approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly impressed by the band's songwriting abilities.
The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger with the single release of "Come and Get It," a composition written by Paul McCartney, and it became a worldwide Top Ten hit. Ham had initially protested against using a non-original to promote the band, as he had gained confidence in the group's compositions, but he was quickly convinced of the springboard effect of having a likely hit single. His own creative perseverance paid off eventually, as his "No Matter What" composition became another Top Ten worldwide hit after its release in late 1970. He followed up writing two more worldwide hits with "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue." His greatest songwriting success came with his co-written composition "Without You" – a worldwide number 1 when it was later covered by Harry Nilsson and released in 1972. The song has since become a ballad standard and is covered by hundreds of singers from many genres worldwide. An Ivor Novello award for Song of the Year was issued in 1973 along with Grammy nominations. George Harrison used Ham's talents for a number of album sessions including the All Things Must Pass album and for other Apple Records artist's recordings. This friendship culminated with Ham's acoustic guitar duet on "Here Comes the Sun" with Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, later portrayed in the theatrical film of the concert. In 1972, Badfinger was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, as the Apple Records label was crumbling and it seemed the band was primed for major recognition.
During the Warner Bros. Records era from 1973–75, Badfinger became embroiled in many internal, financial, and managerial problems and their music was stifled. By 1975, with no income and the band's business manager uncommunicative, Ham became despondent and he hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home. Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, "I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better." It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger's business manager, Stan Polley: "P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me." News of Ham's death was not widely disseminated at the time, as no public comment was made by The Beatles, Apple Corps Ltd, or Warner Bros. Records.
Ham is often credited as being one of the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre. His most widespread effect in popular music is the ballad "Without You," written with Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans. Collections of Ham's home demo recordings have been posthumously released: 1997's 7 Park Avenue, 1999's Golders Green and 2013's The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67.
On 27 April 2013 an official blue plaque was unveiled by the Swansea City Council to honour Pete Ham in his home town of Swansea. The public event was also attended by two former members of the original Badfinger band, The Iveys, Ron Griffiths and Dai Jenkins, plus former Badfinger member, Bob Jackson. The plaque, designed by Dan Matovina, honored Pete and all the Iveys and Badfinger members of Pete Ham's lifetime. A concert followed the unveiling of the plaque featuring former Badfinger members Bob Jackson and Al Wodtke of Minnesota (1982–83).
Ham also appeared as a guest artist on
- The Concert for Bangladesh (the concert, the album, and the film)
- All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (album)
- "It Don't Come Easy" by Ringo Starr (single)
- Living In The Material World (uncredited) by George Harrison (album)
Compositions of note
- "No Matter What" (Billboard charting number 8, by Badfinger)
- "Without You" (Billboard charting number 1 by Harry Nilsson, number 3 by Mariah Carey, number 28 by Clay Aiken).
- "Day After Day" (Billboard charting number 4, Cash Box charting number 1, both by Badfinger)
- "Baby Blue" (Billboard charting number 14 by Badfinger)
- Matovina, Dan. Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger, Google Books, 2000. Retrieved 10 October 2008
- "All Music, Power Pop".
- "Pete Ham of Badfinger". PledgeMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- "Badfinger's Pete Ham: Beatle widow Olivia Harrison joins plaque tributes". BBC News. 27 April 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- "Badfinger Biography Pages – Without You:The Tragic Story". Mindspring.com. Retrieved 27 September 2014.