Ray Davies, CBE (born Raymond Douglas Davies, 21 June 1944, Fortis Green, London) is an English rock musician, best known as lead singer-songwriter for The Kinks - one of the most prolific and long-lived British Invasion bands - which he led with his younger brother, Dave. He has also acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television.
Since the demise of the Kinks in the mid-90s Ray Davies has embarked on a solo career. His February 2006 release Other People's Lives was his first top 40 hit in UK since the 1960s, when he worked with the Kinks. His second solo album, Working Man's Café was released in October 2007.
The musically-inclined Davies was an art student at Hornsey College of Art in London in 1962–1963, when the Kinks developed into a professional performing band. 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 composition "You Really Got Me." Davies led the Kinks through a period of musical experimentation between 1966 and 1976, with notable artistic achievements and commercial success. Between 1977 and their breakup in 1996, Davies and the group reverted to their earlier mainstream rock format and enjoyed a second peak of success.
Davies has had a tempestuous, 'love-hate' relationship with younger brother and Kinks guitarist Dave Davies that dominated the Kinks' career as a band. His compositions and talent as a performer are universally hailed within the music industry, but he has maintained a career-long reputation for being fiercely independent and iconoclastic, resulting in a decades-long pattern of conflict and alienation within the industry. In 1973, a fed-up Ray attempted to announce the breakup of the band onstage (the microphone had been turned off though) and then attempted suicide by gobbling down handfuls of prescription drugs and washing them down with liquor.
He was quoted in 1967: "If I had to do my life over, I would change every single thing I have done."
On 4 January 2004, Davies was wounded when he 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.
Davies' songwriting has often been called more mature, sophisticated, and subtle than that of many of his peers among American and British rock musicians. His lyrics often contained elements of satire and social commentary about the aspirations and frustrations of British middle-class life — examples including songs like "A Well Respected Man" and "Shangri-La", which observed the class-bred insecurity and desperation underlying the materialistic values and conservative protocols of middle-class respectability; "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", which mocked the superficiality and self-indulgence of the mod subculture; and "David Watts", which poignantly expressed the wounded feelings of a plain schoolboy who envies the grace and social privileges enjoyed by a charismatic upperclass student.
His songs also showed signs of social conscience — examples being "God's Children" and songs on the albums, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society and Muswell Hillbillies, which denounced industrialization and commercialism in favour of simple pastoral living. Mid-period songs like "Dead End Street" and "Big Black Smoke" offered grim, neo-Dickensian portraits of the desperate poverty that existed amidst the thriving metropolitan British economy of the 1960s.
In particular, Davies' songs on the 1968 Kinks album The Village Green Preservation Society embraced "Merry England" nostalgia and preservation as themes long before they became fashionable in pop music. Many of his best songs focus on the small-scale, poignant dramas of everyday people (e.g., "Waterloo Sunset", "Two Sisters", "Did You See His Name?"), commonly told as wistful mini-stories.
Aside from the lengthy Kinks discography, Davies has released four 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, and Working Man's Café in October 2007. The release of Working Man's Café was followed on 28 October with a performance at the BBC's Electric Proms series, at The Roundhouse, Camden. 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 1.5million copies of the Sunday Times on 21 October.
Since the Kinks ceased performing in 1996, Davies has toured independently (such as the mainly acoustic Storyteller tours with guitarist Pete Mathison), and more recently with a live band consisting of Toby Baron - drums, Dick Nolan - bass, Gunnar Frick - keyboards and Michael "Milton" McDonald - guitar (who replaced Mark Johns in 2007). In 2005, Davies released a four-song EP in the UK called The Tourist, and a five-song EP in the U.S. entitled Thanksgiving Day. In the liner notes for Other People's Lives, Davies confesses he still does not know who he is and where his roots are. In the sing-along "Next Door Neighbour", he seems to be suggesting he is all three characters. The printed lyrics sheet contains some fascinating insights into the songwriting process.
Davies published his 'unauthorized autobiography', X-Ray, in 1994, a romp through the Swinging Sixties, which settles burning issues ranging from which band produced the first concept album (not The Who), to whether or not he had an affair with Marianne Faithfull. In 1997, he published a book of short stories entitled Waterloo Sunset, described as 'a concept album set on paper'. He has made two films, Return to Waterloo in 1985 and Weird Nightmare in 1991, a documentary about Charles Mingus.
Music-Maker with the Personal Touch; Ray Davies Talks to Al Hutchins about What Drives His Kind of Song-Writing
Oct 04, 2002; Byline: Al Hutchins The story goes that Ray Davies woke up singing Waterloo Sunset, one of his finest compositions for the Kinks,...