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Roger Whittaker, Durham Town folk singer, dies aged 87

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Folk singer Roger Whittaker, who was known for hits such as ‘Durham Town’ and ‘The Last Farwell’, has died at the age of 87.

“It is with great sadness we share the news of Roger’s passing at age 87. His life, artistry and legacy has meant so much to so many all over the world,” reads a statement shared by the singer’s friend, Jesse Waggoner, posted on Whittaker’s Facebook page. “We are thankful that the gift of his music remains with us.”

German news outlet, Bild, confirmed that Whittaker passed on Wednesday, September 13 in a hospital in the south of France.

“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,” his family shared in a statement.

The folk singer was born in in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1936, while his parents were from Staffordshire, England. He was raised around music. Whittaker’s grandfather sang in various clubs and his father played the violin.

He went on to study medicine after doing national service in Kenya.While studying for his degree, he sang in local clubs and wrote his own songs. After 18 months, traded medicine for teaching and moved to the University of Bangor in Wales to get a teaching qualification.

Whittaker has attributed his love to music to his childhood, sharing in an interview: “In over 30 years of singing and playing musical sounds, the wonderful drumming, and those marvellous, infectious rhythms, have played a great part in everything I have ever written and sung.”

His track, ‘My Land is Kenya, is still played in the country on TV and radio during national holidays or election campaigns.

Whittaker’s first major release, ‘Steel Man’ entered the charts while he was still at university, as he sat for his final degree exams. Throughout his career, went on to sell close to 50 million records and received 250 platinum, gold and silver awards during his career.

The singer was multi-lingual and sang in French and German as well. The latter country had a passionately devoted fanbase dedicated to his music. Germany gave Whittaker high levels of fame and reputation due to his fluency with the language while singing and recording his song.

Both he and his wife Natalie retired to France in 2012. Whittaker is survived by his wife and their five children: Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Guy and Alexander.

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