Raymond Douglas "Ray" Davies CBE (// DAY-viz; born 21 June 1944) is an English rock musician. He is best known as lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks, which he led with his younger brother, Dave. He has also acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television.
Since the dissolution of the Kinks in 1996, Ray Davies has embarked on a solo career as a singer-songwriter.
Davies was born at 6 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green in Muswell Hill, North London, England. He is the seventh of eight children born to Fred and Annie Davies, including six older sisters and younger brother Dave Davies. He went to William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (now called Fortismere School).
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 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. Between 1976 and their break-up 20 years later, Davies and the group reverted to their earlier mainstream rock format and enjoyed a second peak of success, with other hit songs, like "Destroyer", "Come Dancing" and "Do It Again". The Kinks disbanded in 1996, and Ray Davies has performed solo since then.
In 1973, Davies attempted suicide by overdose following the breakup of his first marriage; he was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Davies has had a tempestuous relationship with younger brother Dave (the band's lead guitarist) that dominated the Kinks' career as a band. He has been married three times and has four daughters: Louisa, Victoria, Natalie and Eva. Davies had a relationship with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders during the 1980s, and they had a daughter, Natalie.
In 1990, Davies was inducted, with the Kinks, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, in 2005, into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
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 Kinks: 1963–1996
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 gradually gave 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, it 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 ("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 masterpiece "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 World War I and World War II, 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—the RCA era (1971–75) had produced Muswell Hillbillies, Everybody's in Show-Biz, Preservation Act 1 and Act 2, Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace—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 & 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.
Solo work: 1985–present
Aside from the lengthy Kinks discography, Davies has released five 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 and The Kinks Choral Collection in June 2009. Other People's Lives was his first top 40 album in the UK since the 1960s, when he worked with the Kinks.
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.
Since the Kinks ceased performing in 1996, Davies has toured independently. Initially, he toured with the mainly acoustic 20th Century Man, An Evening With Ray Davies and Storyteller shows, accompanied by guitarist Pete Mathison. He has toured with a full band consisting of, among others, Toby Baron (drums), Geoff Dugmore (drums), Dick Nolan (bass), Gunnar Frick (keyboards), Ian Gibbons (keyboards), Scott Donaldson (guitar), Mark Johns (guitar), Milton McDonald (guitar), Bill Shanley (guitar), and Damon Wilson (drums).
In 2005, Davies released The Tourist, a four-song EP, in the UK; and Thanksgiving Day, a five-song EP, in the US.
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 in 1991, a documentary about Charles Mingus and Americana (subtitled "A Work In Progress") which was included on DVD with the Working Man's Cafe disc release in 2008.
A choral album, The Kinks Choral Collection, on which Davies has 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.
In October 2009, Davies performed "All Day and All of the Night" with Metallica at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert.
Davies was also a judge for the 3rd and 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
Davies played at Glastonbury Festival 2010 where he dedicated several songs to the late Kinks' bassist, Pete Quaife. Davies is seen to visibly almost break down in tears while singing an a cappella intro to the song "Days".
A collaborations album, See My Friends, was released in November 2010 with a US release to follow in early 2011.
Davies performed with Mando Diao in their MTV Unplugged live show.
In 2011 Davies was "grounded" for six months following discovery of blood clots in his lungs. After the malady Davies programmed the line-up for the upcoming Meltdown Festival in London. At the festival he is scheduled to perform rendition of the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society album with the London Philharmonic and a local chorus. He was working on his second book: a memoir that Davies described as "kind of fictionalized". His first book X-Ray was released in 1995.
2011 also marked Davies' return to New Orleans, Louisiana to play the Voodoo Experience Music festival. Davies' setlist included material by the Kinks and solo material.
In autumn 2011, Davies 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 their upcoming show Animal Practice.
In 1981 Davies collaborated with Barrie Keeffe to write his first stage musical, Chorus Girls, which opened at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, starring Marc Sinden and also 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 Eighty 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.
Davies' musical Come Dancing, based partly on his 1983 hit single with twenty new songs, ran at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London in September–November 2008.
- On 17 March 2004, Davies received the CBE from Queen Elizabeth II for "Services to Music."
- On 22 June 2004, Davies won the Mojo Songwriter Award, which recognises "an artist whose career has been defined by his ability to pen classic material on a consistent basis."
- Davies was also a judge for the third annual Independent Music Awards. His contributions helped assist upcoming independent artists' careers.
- Davies and the Kinks were the third British band (along with The Who) to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, at which Davies was called "almost indisputably rock's most literate, witty and insightful songwriter." They were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
- On 3 October 2006, Davies was awarded the BMI Icon Award for his "enduring influence on generations of music makers" at the 2006 annual BMI London Awards.
- On 15 February 2009, The Mobius Best Off-West End Production in the UK for the musical Come Dancing.
- On 7 September 2010, Davies was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award at the GQ Men of the Year Awards.
- On 26 October 2010, Davies was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at his AVO Session concert in Basel; the concert was televised internationally.
- For Kinks discography see The Kinks discography
- Return to Waterloo (1985)
- The Storyteller (1998) (UK#105)
- Other People's Lives (2006) (UK#36)
- Working Man's Café (2007) (UK#179)
- The Kinks Choral Collection (2009) (UK#28) (with the Crouch End Festival Chorus)
- See My Friends (2010) (UK#12) (with various artists)
- Collected (2009)
- Waterloo Sunset - The Very Best of The Kinks and Ray Davies (2012) (UK#14)
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.)
- Songs written by Ray Davies
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- Polito, Robert. Bits of Me Scattered Everywhere: Ray Davies and the Kinks, pp. 119–144 in Eric Weisbard, ed., This is Pop, Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01321-2 (cloth), ISBN 0-674-01344-1 (paper)
- Kitts, Thomas. Ray Davies, Not Like Everybody Else, 302 pp., Routledge Pub., 2008. ISBN 0-415-97769-X (paper)
- Official website
- The Kinks website
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Image from Discogs