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Photo: Roy Anderson/Family handout
A sad note in the music world today with news of the death of Raphael Ravenscroft, the British saxophonist who worked with some of the best artists of his generation. He died at age 60 after an apparent heart attack on Sunday in Exeter, UK. Ravenscroft is best known for penning and playing one of the most recognizable saxophone riffs in history, for Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Baker Street.” .
Ravenscroft was reportedly paid only $44 for the session — and on top of that, the check bounced. Thankfully, he later earned around $130,000 a year from royalties after “Baker Street” reached #2 in the U.S. charts and #3 in the UK.
He also played on albums by Pink Floyd, Abba, Marvin Gaye, Bonnie Tyler and Daft Punk. Ravenscroft later said his most famous riff irritated him “because it's out of tune” — though most of us have never noticed.
To pay tribute to Ravenscroft, we have tracked down the top saxophone riffs the world has produced since Adolphe Sax built his first prototype in 1842 in Paris. (Note: We have also transcribed them to help you sing along...)
Henry Mancini, "The Pink Panther Theme"
"Pala, pala, pala pala pala palapalaaaa, palapalala"
The Champs, "Tequila"
"Tata tatata tatata, tata tatata tata, tata tatata tatata, tata tatatata tata, tequila!"
The Revels, "Comanche"
"Papapapapa papapapapa pow, Papapapapa papapapapa pow, Papapapapa papapapapa pow, Papapapapa papapapapa pow"
Pink Floyd, "Us and Them"
"Bemdabab, bemdab dedabdab, daaadabedab, deeebdebdabedab, dedadaaa, dedadaaa"
George Michael, "Careless Whisper"
"Laala laala, laala laala, laala laala, laala laala, lalalalalaaa lalaaa, laalaa laalaalaalaalaalaa"
Madness, "One Step Beyond"
Pwa pwa pwaaaa, pwa pwa pwa pwa pwaaaa, pwa pwa pwa pwaaaa, pwa pwa pwa pwa pwaaaa