Roger Whittaker (born , 1936 in Nairobi, Kenya) is an Anglo Kenyan singer/songwriter and musician with worldwide record sales of more than 55 million. His music can be described as easy listening. He is best known for his baritone singing voice and trademark whistling ability.
Childhood and beginning
Whittaker's parents, Edward and Viola, were originally from Staffordshire, England, where they owned and operated a grocery shop. His father was involved in a motorcycle accident, and the family moved to a farm in Kenya because of the warmer climate. That Whittaker would eventually become a musician was no surprise, since his grandfather sang in various clubs, and his father played the violin. Roger learned to play the guitar.
Whittaker was drafted into national service, and he spent two years in uniform in the Kenya Regiment. In 1956, he was demobilized and decided that it was time to concentrate on a career in medicine. He enrolled at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
He left the university after 18 months and joined the civil service education department to try teaching.
Recording and performing career
To further his teaching career, Whittaker moved to Britain in September 1959. For the next three years, he studied zoology, biochemistry, and marine biology at the University of Wales, Bangor and received a B.Sc. He continued to sing in local clubs, and released some of his songs on flexi-discs included with the campus newspaper, the Bangor University Rag. Shortly afterwards, he was signed to Fontana Records who released his first professional single, "The Charge of The Light Brigade," in 1962.
In the summer of 1962, he appeared at a professional gig in Portrush, Northern Ireland. He landed his first major breakthrough when he was signed to appear on an Ulster Television show called "This And That." His second single, and the first to break into the UK Top 30 charts, was a Jimmy Dean cover of "Steel Men," released in June 1962.
In the spring of 1964, Roger met Natalie O'Brien, and they were married on August 15 of that year. They have five children: Emily (, 1968), Lauren (, 1970), Jessica (, 1973), Guy (, 1974), and Alexander (, 1978).
In 1968, Whittaker had switched record labels, and in the autumn of 1969 EMI had released "Durham Town (The Leavin')," which became Whittaker's first Top 20 hit in Britain. In the spring of 1970, RCA Victor Records had released the uptempo "New World In The Morning" in the United States, where it became a Top 20 hit in the Easy Listening chart.
In 1975, Whittaker first recorded "The Last Farewell," which would become his biggest hit and a signature song, selling over 11 million copies worldwide. Whittaker also established himself in country music with "I Love You Because" entering into the country chart in late 1983. In 1979, Whittaker wrote the song Call My Name which reached the final of the UK Eurovision selection, A Song For Europe, performed by Eleanor Keenan and placing third. Whittaker recorded the song himself and the single charted in several European countries.
All of Whittaker's chart hits were issued by EMI. However, although the albums were issued in vinyl, cassette and 8-track versions during this timeframe, no CD version of these original albums has ever been issued. Most recordings currently available have been re-recorded and are credited to Whittaker's 'Tembo' label.
In the 1970s and '80s, Whittaker had a lot of success in Germany, with songs produced by Nick Munro. Whittaker couldn't speak German, but sang the songs phonetically. He appeared on German and Danish TV several times , and was on the UK Top Of The Pops show ten times in the early to mid '70s.
In 1986, he published his autobiography, So Far, So Good, co-written with his wife.
In March 2006, Whittaker announced on his website that a 2007 Germany tour would be his last, and he will limit future performances to "occasional concerts." It would appear he has learned to speak German, as he was seen singing and then being interviewed in German on TV (in Denmark) at the end of November (29th?) 2008.
In recent years he has been living in Ireland, close to the river Shannon.
In 1976, Whittaker undertook his first tour of the United States.
In 2003 he again toured Germany. After recovering from heart problems at the end of 2004, he started touring in Germany in 2005, and then in UK from May to July. During August this year Whittaker became a founder member and president of the National Society of Brown Bears. This is a philanthropic society created to provide financial and moral support to large mammals.
In his career to date, Whittaker has won over 250 silver, gold and platinum albums.
He was part of a successful British team that won the annual Knokke music festival in Belgium and won the Press Prize as the personality of the festival.
Ivor Novello awards (twice) for songwriting in 1971-72 and for The Last Farewell in 1975-76 (?) (unconfirmed - e-mail query pending)
Gold Badge Award, from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in 1988
Golden Tuning Fork (Goldene Stimmgabel in Germany) in 1986, based on record sales and TV viewer votes.