Davies performing in Toronto, 1977
|Birth name||Raymond Douglas Davies|
|Born||21 June 1944|
Fortis Green, London, England
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, piano|
|Associated acts||The Kinks, Blues Incorporated, Crouch End Festival Chorus, The 88|
Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, CBE (// DAY-viz; born 21 June 1944) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the Kinks, which he leads with his younger brother, Dave. He has also acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television. He is often referred to as "the godfather of Britpop". After the dissolution of the Kinks in 1996, Davies embarked on a solo career.
Davies was born at 6 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green, north London, England. He is the seventh of eight children born to working-class parents, including six older sisters and younger brother Dave Davies.
Ray's father, Frederick Davies (b. 1905) was a slaughterhouse worker of Welsh descent. He liked to hang out in pubs and was considered a ladies' man. His own father, Harry, was also a slaughterman, in the Rhondda Valley, Wales. Ray's mother is of Irish descent. Fred moved to London as a young man, where he took up his father's occupation and married a Londoner, Anne Willmore (b. 1905). Anne came from a "sprawling family", and she in turn gave birth to one. She had a sharp tongue and could be crude and forceful.
When Ray was still a small child, one of his older sisters became a star of the dance halls, and soon had a child out of wedlock by an African man - an illegal immigrant who subsequently disappeared from her life. The child, a daughter, was ultimately raised by Ray's mother.
Davies was an art student at Hornsey College of Art in London in 1962–63. In late 1962 he became increasingly interested in music; at a Hornsey College Christmas dance he sought advice from Alexis Korner who was playing at the dance with Blues Incorporated and Korner introduced him to Giorgio Gomelsky, a promoter and future manager of the Yardbirds. Gomelsky arranged for Davies to play at his Piccadilly Club with the Dave Hunt Rhythm & Blues Band, and on New Year's Eve the Ray Davies Quartet opened for Cyril Stapleton at the Lyceum Ballroom. A few days later he became the permanent guitarist for the Dave Hunt Band, an engagement that would only last about six weeks. The band were the house band at Gomelsky's new venture, the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond-upon-Thames; when the Dave Hunt band were snowed in during the coldest winter since 1740, Gomelsky offered a gig to a new band called the Rolling Stones, who had previously supported Hunt at the Piccadilly and would take over the residency. Davies then joined the Hamilton King Band until June 1963; the Kinks (then known as the Ramrods) spent the summer supporting Rick Wayne on a tour of US airbases.
After the Kinks obtained a recording contract in early 1964, Davies emerged as the chief songwriter and de facto leader of the band, especially after the band's breakthrough success with his early composition "You Really Got Me", which was released as the band's third single in August of that year. Davies led the Kinks through a period of musical experimentation between 1966 and 1975, with notable artistic achievements and commercial success.
The Kinks' early recordings of 1964 ranged from covers of R&B standards like "Long Tall Sally" and "Got Love If You Want It" to the chiming, melodic beat music of Ray Davies' earliest original compositions for the band, "You Still Want Me" and "Something Better Beginning", to the more influential proto-metal, protopunk, power chord-based hard rock of the band's first two hit singles, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night".
However, by 1965, this raucous, hard-driving early style had gradually given way to the softer and more introspective sound of "Tired of Waiting for You", "Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl", "Set Me Free", "I Go to Sleep" and "Ring the Bells". With the eerie, droning "See My Friends"—inspired by the untimely death of the Davies brothers' older sister Rene in June 1957—the band began to show signs of expanding their musical palette even further. A rare foray into early psychedelic rock, "See My Friends" is credited by Jonathan Bellman as the first Western pop song to integrate Indian raga sounds—released six months before the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)".
Beginning with "A Well Respected Man" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" (both recorded in the summer of 1965), Davies' lyrics assumed a new sociological character. He began to explore the aspirations and frustrations of common working-class people, with particular emphasis on the psychological effects of the British class system. Face to Face (1966), the first Kinks album composed solely of original material, was a creative breakthrough. As the band began to experiment with theatrical sound effects and baroque musical arrangements (Nicky Hopkins played harpsichord on several tracks), Davies' songwriting fully acquired its distinctive elements of narrative, observation and wry social commentary. His topical songs took aim at the complacency and indolence of wealthy playboys and the upper class ("A House in the Country", "Sunny Afternoon"), the heedless ostentation of a self-indulgent spendthrift nouveau riche ("Most Exclusive Residence For Sale"), and even the mercenary nature of the music business itself ("Session Man").
By late 1966, Davies was addressing the bleakness of life at the lower end of the social spectrum: released together as the complementary A-B sides of a single, "Dead End Street" and "Big Black Smoke" were powerful neo-Dickensian sketches of urban poverty. Other songs like "Situation Vacant" (1967) and "Shangri-La" (1969) hinted at the helpless sense of insecurity and emptiness underlying the materialistic values adopted by the English working class. In a similar vein, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" (1966) wittily satirized the consumerism and celebrity worship of Carnaby Street and 'Swinging London', while "David Watts" (1967) humorously expressed the wounded feelings of a plain schoolboy who envies the grace and privileges enjoyed by a charismatic upper class student.
The Kinks have been called "the most adamantly British of the Brit Invasion bands" on account of Ray Davies' abiding fascination with England's imperial past and his tender, bittersweet evocations of "a vanishing, romanticized world of village greens, pubs and public schools". During the band's mid-period, he wrote many cheerfully eccentric—and often ironic—celebrations of traditional English culture and living: "Village Green" (1966), "Afternoon Tea" and "Autumn Almanac" (both 1967), "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains" (1968), "Victoria" (1969), "Have a Cuppa Tea" (1971) and "Cricket" (1973). In other songs, Davies revived the style of British music hall, vaudeville and trad jazz: "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", "Sunny Afternoon", "Dandy" and "Little Miss Queen of Darkness" (all 1966); "Mister Pleasant" and "End of the Season" (both 1967); "Sitting By the Riverside" and "All of My Friends Were There" (both 1968); "She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina" (1969); "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" and "Alcohol" (both 1971); "Look a Little on the Sunny Side" (1972); and "Holiday Romance" (1975). Occasionally, he varied the group's sound with more disparate musical influences, such as raga ("Fancy", 1966), bossa nova ("No Return", 1967) and calypso ("I'm on an Island", 1965; "Monica", 1968; "Apeman", 1970; "Supersonic Rocket Ship", 1972).
Davies is often at his most affecting when he sings of giving up worldly ambition for the simple rewards of love and domesticity ("This is Where I Belong", 1966; "Two Sisters", 1967; "The Way Love Used to Be", 1971; "Sweet Lady Genevieve", 1973; "You Make It All Worthwhile", 1974), or when he extols the consolations of friendship and memory ("Days", 1968; "Do You Remember Walter?", 1968; "Picture Book", 1968; "Young and Innocent Days", 1969; "Moments", 1971; "Schooldays", 1975). Yet another perennial Ray Davies theme is the championing of individualistic personalities and lifestyles ("I'm Not Like Everybody Else", 1966; "Johnny Thunder", 1968; "Monica", 1968; "Lola", 1970; "Celluloid Heroes", 1972; "Where Are They Now?", 1973; "Sitting in the Midday Sun", 1973). On his 1967 song "Waterloo Sunset", the singer finds a fleeting sense of contentment in the midst of urban drabness and solitude.
Davies' mid-period work for the Kinks also showed signs of an emerging social conscience. For example, "Holiday in Waikiki" (1966) deplored the vulgar commercialization of a once unspoiled indigenous culture. Similarly, "God's Children" and "Apeman" (both 1970), and the songs "20th Century Man", "Complicated Life" and "Here Come the People in Grey" from Muswell Hillbillies (1971), passionately decried industrialization and bureaucracy in favour of simple pastoral living. Perhaps most significantly, the band's acclaimed 1968 concept album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society gave an affectionate embrace to "Merry England" nostalgia and advocated for the preservation of traditional English country village and hamlet life.
A definitive testament to Davies' reputation as a songwriter of insight, empathy and wit can be heard on the Kinks' landmark 1969 album Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Originally conceived as the soundtrack to a television play that was never produced, the band's first rock opera affectionately chronicled the trials and tribulations of a working class everyman and his family from the very end of the Victorian era through the First World War and Second World War, the postwar austerity years, and up to the 1960s. The overall theme of the record was partly inspired by the life of Ray and Dave Davies' brother-in-law, Arthur Anning, who had married their older sister, Rose—herself the subject of an earlier Kinks song, "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home" (1966)—and had emigrated to Australia after the war. Over the course of a dozen evocative songs, Arthur fulfils its ambitious subtitle as Davies embellishes an intimate family chronicle with satirical observations about the shifting mores of the English working class in response to the declining fortunes of the British Empire.
When the Kinks changed record labels from RCA to Arista in 1976, Davies abandoned his then-recent propensity for ambitious, theatrical concept albums and rock operas (see above), and returned to writing more basic, straightforward songs. The group would also employ newer production techniques to achieve a more refined studio sound on the albums Sleepwalker (1977) and Misfits (1978), as Davies' focus shifted to wistful ballads of restless alienation ("Life on the Road", "Misfits"), meditations on the inner lives of obsessed pop fans ("Juke Box Music", "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy"), and exhortations of carpe diem ("Life Goes On", "Live Life", "Get Up"). A notable single from late 1977 reflected the contemporary influence of punk rock: "Father Christmas" (A-side) and "Prince of the Punks" (B-side—inspired by Davies' troubled collaboration with Tom Robinson).
By the early 80s, the Kinks revived their commercial fortunes considerably by adopting a much more mainstream arena rock style; and the band's four remaining studio albums for Arista—Low Budget (1979), Give the People What They Want (1981), State of Confusion (1983) and Word of Mouth (1984)—showcased a decidedly canny and opportunistic approach. On "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman", Davies vented his existential angst about the 1979 energy crisis over a thumping disco beat; on "A Gallon of Gas", he addressed the same concern over a traditional acoustic twelve-bar blues shuffle. In contrast, "Better Things" (1981), "Come Dancing" (1982), "Don't Forget to Dance" (1983) and "Good Day" (1984) were sentimental songs of hope and nostalgia for the aging Air Raid Generation. However, with "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" (1979), "Destroyer" (1981), "Clichés of the World (B Movie)" (1983) and "Do It Again" (1984), the Davies brothers cranked out strident, heavy-riffing hard rock that conveyed an attitude of bitter cynicism and world weary disillusionment.
I write songs because I get angry, and now I'm at the stage where it's not good enough to brush it off with humour.
Aside from the lengthy Kinks discography, Davies has released six solo albums: the 1985 release Return to Waterloo (which accompanied a television film he wrote and directed), the 1998 release The Storyteller, Other People's Lives in early 2006, Working Man's Café in October 2007, The Kinks Choral Collection in June 2009, and Americana in April 2017.
Other People's Lives was his first top 40 album in the UK since the 1960s, when he worked with the Kinks. In 1986 he contributed the track Quiet Life to the soundtrack of the Julien Temple film Absolute Beginners that is a musical film adapted from Colin MacInnes' book of the same name about life in late 1950s London. The song was released as a single. Davies appeared in the film, in which he also sang Quiet Life,
Davies published his "unauthorised autobiography", X-Ray, in 1994. In 1997, he published a book of short stories entitled Waterloo Sunset, described as "a concept album set on paper." He has made three films, Return to Waterloo in 1985, Weird Nightmare (a documentary about Charles Mingus) in 1991, and Americana (subtitled "A Work In Progress") which was included on DVD with the Working Man's Cafe disc release in 2008.
On 4 January 2004, Davies was shot in the leg while chasing thieves who had snatched the purse of his companion as they walked in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. The shooting came less than a week after Davies was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
The release of Working Man's Café was followed on 28 October 2007 with a performance at the BBC's Electric Proms series, at The Roundhouse, Camden, accompanied by the Crouch End Festival Chorus. The concert was broadcast the same evening on BBC Two. An edited version of Working Man's Café, excluding two bonus tracks and liner notes, was given away with 1.5 million copies of the Sunday Times on 21 October.
A choral album, The Kinks Choral Collection, on which Davies had been collaborating with the Crouch End Festival Chorus since 2007, was released in the UK in June 2009 and in the US in November 2009. The album was re-released as a special extended edition including Davies' charity Christmas single "Postcard From London" featuring Davies' former girlfriend and leader of the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde. The video for the single was directed by Julien Temple and features London landmarks including Waterloo Bridge, Carnaby Street, the statue of Eros steps and the Charlie Chaplin statue in Leicester Square. The duet was originally recorded with Kate Nash. His first choice had been Dame Vera Lynn.
Davies was a judge for the 3rd (in 2004) and 7th (in 2008) annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
Davies was "grounded" for six months in 2011, following a discovery of blood clots in his lungs. Once recovered, he programmed the line-up for the upcoming Meltdown Festival in London. At the festival Davies performed a rendition of the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society album with the London Philharmonic and the Crouch End Festival Chorus. He was working on his second book, a memoir that he described as "kind of fictionalized".
2011 also marked Davies' return to New Orleans, Louisiana, to play the Voodoo Experience Music festival. His setlist included material by the Kinks and solo material. That autumn, he toured with the 88 as his backing band. In August 2012, Davies performed 'Waterloo Sunset' as part of the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, watched by over 24 million viewers in the UK, but which was subsequently cut by NBC from the US broadcast in favour of a failed marketing attempt for its upcoming show Animal Practice.
On 18 December 2015, Ray joined his brother Dave for an encore at London's Islington Assembly Hall. The two performed "You Really Got Me", marking the first time in nearly 20 years that the brothers had appeared and performed together.
In April 2017, Davies released the album Americana. Based on his experiences in the US it follows on from the short DVD, Americana — a work in progress (found on the deluxe CD Working Man's Cafe from 2007), and his biographical book Americana from 2013. A second volume Our Country - Americana Act II was released in June 2018. For his backing band on Americana Davies chose The Jayhawks an alt-country/country-rock band from Minnesota.
In 1981, Davies collaborated with Barrie Keeffe in writing his first stage musical, Chorus Girls, which opened at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, starring Marc Sinden, and had a supporting cast of Michael Elphick, Anita Dobson, Kate Williams and Charlotte Cornwell. Directed by Adrian Shergold, the choreography was by Charles Augins and Jim Rodford played bass with the theatre's "house band".
Davies wrote songs for a musical version of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days; the show, 80 Days, had a book by playwright Snoo Wilson. It was directed by Des McAnuff and ran at the La Jolla Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Theatre in San Diego from 23 August to 9 October 1988. The musical received mixed responses from the critics. Davies' multi-faceted music, McAnuff's directing, and the acting, however, were well received, with the show winning the "Best Musical" award from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle.
Sunny Afternoon, a musical based on Ray Davies's early life and featuring Kinks songs opened to critical acclaim at Hampstead Theatre. The musical moved to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's West End in October 2014. The musical won four awards at the 2015 Olivier Awards, including one for Ray Davies: the Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music .
Ray Davies has been married three times and has four daughters. Two of them, Louisa Davies and Victoria Davies, are from his first marriage in 1964 to Rasa Dicpetris. In 1973, Davies attempted suicide by a drugs overdose following the breakup of his first marriage. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Davies' second marriage was in 1974 to Yvonne Gunner. The couple had no children.
Davies had a relationship with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders during the 1980s, and their daughter is named Natalie Rae Hynde. His third marriage was to Irish ballet dancer Patricia Crosbie, with whom he had a daughter, Eva Davies. Davies is bisexual.
Ray Davies has had a tempestuous relationship with younger brother Dave, the Kinks' lead guitarist, which "dominated" the Kinks' career as a band and has kept a full reunion from taking place.
On 4 January 2004, Davies was shot in the leg while chasing thieves who had snatched the purse of his companion as they walked in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. An accomplice was arrested, but charges were dropped because Davies was in London and did not return for the trial.
Chart singles written by Davies The following is a list of Davies compositions that were chart hits for artists other than The Kinks. (See The Kinks discography for hits by The Kinks.)
|UK Singles Chart||Canada||US Hot 100|
|1965||"This Strange Effect"||Dave Berry||37|
|"Something Better Beginning"||The Honeycombs||39|
|1966||"A House in the Country"||The Pretty Things||50|
|1978||"You Really Got Me"||Van Halen||49||36|
|"David Watts"||The Jam||25|
|1979||"Stop Your Sobbing"||The Pretenders||34||65|
|1981||"I Go To Sleep"||The Pretenders||7|
|1988||"All Day and All of the Night"||The Stranglers||7|
|1997||"Waterloo Sunset"||Cathy Dennis||11|
|2007||"The Village Green Preservation Society"||Kate Rusby||102|
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