Roger Whittaker, folk singer and expert whistler known for tracks such as “Durham Town (The Leavin’),” “New World in the Morning” and his Billboard Hot 100 top 20 track “The Last Farewell,” has died at 87. The singer died on Wednesday, Sept. 13, according to a statement on his website.
“It is with great sadness that we share that our beloved Roger Whittaker passed away on the 13th. September 2023 he left us in peace in the presence of his family. During this difficult time we would like to thank everyone for their support and compassion,” the statement, also from Sony Music, read. “Roger was an iconic artist, a wonderful husband and father. He touched so many hearts with his music during his lifetime and will always live on in our memories. The family requests privacy as we go through this time of grief and we thank you for your understanding. Roger will be greatly missed, his legacy will forever live on in our hearts and in his art.”
Roger Henry Brough Whittaker was born March 22, 1936, in Nairobi. The singer was exposed to music through his family: his grandfather frequently sang in clubs, while his father played the violin. Whittaker’s earliest recordings were released while he was an undergrad at the University College of North Wales though the campus’ newspaper, which included his songs on flexi discs.
In 1969, Whittaker released “Durham Town (The Leavin’),” with the song eventually peaking at No. 23 Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, where he placed eight additional songs, including “New World in the Morning” (No. 12), “I Don’t Believe in If Anymore” (No. 10) and “The Last Farewell,” which became Whittaker’s most successful single, topping the AC chart. It was also his first and only track to reach the Hot 100, peaking at No. 19.
After becoming fluent in German, Whittaker catered to his fanbase and spent the 1970s and onward performing in the country, in addition to releasing 25 albums in German.
During his career, he also placed six albums on the all-genre Billboard 200, including The Last Farewell and Other Hits (No. 31) and When I Need You (No. 115).
According to his website, he and wife Natalie “settled into retirement” in France in 2012.