Roger Whittaker, British Folk Singer Known for ‘Durham Town,’ Dies at 87

The musician was beloved for his whistling skills and guitar ability

Roger Whittaker (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Roger Whittaker (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Roger Whittaker, best known for his hit 1969 track “Durham Town,” has died at the age of 87.

Whittaker was known for his superb whistling ability, baritone singing voice and his guitar skills. Per his website, Whittaker sold over 50 million records.

“New World In The Morning” and “Albany” were among the beloved songs in the singer’s massive catalog. Prior to his rise to fame, he started his music career performing in folk clubs. His 1986 “The Skye Boat Song” duet with Des O’Connor helped to boost his stardom and Whittaker is also remembered for his version of “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Before his time in the music industry, Whittaker spent two years in British Army unit the Kenya Regiment after being drafted into national service. He then pursued an education in medicine, enrolling in the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

In 1959, he moved to the United Kingdom to study biology, biochemistry and marine biology. But he began crafting songs during his last year at Bangor University, located in Wales.

Born on March 22, 1936 in Nairobi, Kenya to two British-born parents, Whittaker shared that the music of East Africa influenced him and his sound.

“In over 30 years of singing and playing musical sounds — the wonderful drumming, and those marvelous, infectious rhythms — have played a great part in everything I have ever written and sung,” Whittaker said, per the musician’s website.

In school, he was an avid member of the school choir and achieved high academic marks. “In the last three years of my formal education, I managed to work hard enough to get top grades in all my school exams and I had great hopes later of studying to become a teacher or a doctor.”

Whittaker’s site also welcomes visitors to leave a comment for the late singer.

“Thank you for providing a rock in this challenging world, you’ve been a friend to me for so long. Good memories,” a person named Mark wrote in the comment section.

“For you are beautiful and we have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell,” one Kathleen wrote.

Whittaker retired in 2012 and moved into a home in France with his wife Natalie O’Brien. Together, the two shared five children: Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Guy and Alexander.

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