English singer, guitarist, and songwriter
Davies was the leader, singer, and songwriter of the Kinks, one of the most innovative of the British Invasion bands.
June 21, 1944; London, England
Also known as:
Raymond Douglas Davies (full name) Member of:
The Kinks Principal recordings
albums (solo): Return to Waterloo, 1985; The Storyteller, 1998; Other People’s Lives, 2006.
albums (with the Kinks): You Really Got Me, 1964; Kinda Kinks, 1965; The Kink Kontroversy, 1965; Face to Face, 1966; Something Else, 1967; The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, 1968; Arthur: Or, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1969; Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, 1970; Muswell Hillbillies, 1971; Everybody’s in Show-Biz, 1972; Preservation, Act I, 1973; Preservation, Act II, 1974; Schoolboys in Disgrace, 1975; Soap Opera, 1975; Sleepwalker, 1977; Misfits, 1978; Low Budget, 1979; One for the Road, 1980; Give the People What They Want, 1981; State of Confusion, 1983; Word of Mouth, 1984; Think Visual, 1986; U.K. Jive, 1989; Phobia, 1993; To the Bone, 1996.
writings of interest: X-Ray, 1994 (autobiography).
Raymond Douglas Davies was born in a north London working-class district, one of eight children.
Davies briefly attended art college, and he then turned to music, playing in jazz bands until he joined his younger brother, Dave (David Russell Gordon Davies), to play rock and roll. Initially known as the Ravens, they changed their name in 1963 to the Kinks, and they scored a huge hit with “You Really Got Me,” which topped the British charts and went to number seven in the United States.Astring of other popular songs followed, all written by Davies, that established the band as one of the most popular and prolific of the 1960’s.
The Kinks produced twenty-three albums over the next three decades, and when their popularity waned in England, they continued to be a major draw in the United States, where their records continued to sell well. In 1990 Davies and the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and into England’s Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2003 he was named a Commander of the British Empire, and shortly thereafter he was shot in the leg by a mugger while visiting a nephew in New Orleans.
After the dissolution of the Kinks in 1996, he released several solo albums.
The Kinks’ first twoAmerican albums contained some original material, but they also relied upon cover versions of others’ songs. Their third album, The Kink Kontroversy, included only one cover song (an inspired version of “Milk Cow Blues”), and Davies compositions, whichwere tuneful as well as considerably thoughtful. Face to Face came after Davies had suffered a nervous breakdown, which he commented on in the sardonic “Sunny Afternoon,” and the album included a number of songs of social commentary that would characterize his songwriting throughout his career.
Something Else and Concept Albums.
Something Else continued in the same vein, with songs that moved completely away from the band’s hardrocking early efforts and into an increasingly meditative strain. “Waterloo Sunset,” the album’s highlight, is considered one of Davies’s most beautiful songs. Their next album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, was an early concept album built around nostalgic reflections on village life, and it sold poorly. Some criticized the album for its sentimentality, though in later years it has come to be regarded as one of the band’s best. Arthur: Or, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, originally written as the sound track for an unreleased television play, stands as another concept album, inspired by Davies’s, his sister’s, and his brother-in-law’s emigration to Australia, and it was a critical success.
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround.
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround was Davies’s ironic look at the music industry, which he believed had not treated him and the band well. The songs were the most varied of any album up to that point, and it produced the huge hit, “Lola,” a mainstay of the Kinks’ live shows. After this success, the band switched labels, produced one excellent album that observed their workingclass origins (Muswell Hillbillies), and then embarked on a series of ill-fated concept albums that offered little in the way of serious music.
Sleepwalker and the 1980’s.
With the release of Sleepwalker on yet another new label, the band regained some of its vigor. Gone were the selfconscious concepts and tired performances, as Davies reflected seriously on his career and musical ambitions. Misfits, an upbeat work, featured ironic lyrics and an excellent single, “A Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy.” Low Budget was a strong effort, which found the band playing with renewed energy and which reestablished it as a determinedly rock band. Low Budget earned the band its first gold record since the 1960’s. Asecond gold record followed in 1980 with the live recording One for the Road.
In the 1980’s the band was writing and playing almost exclusively for an American audience, their sound streamlined and punchy. Albums such as Give the People What They Want, State of Confusion, Word of Mouth, and Think Visual produced modest radio successes, and they kept the band on the road and in the public eye. Although none of these matched their earlier efforts, many good songs were collected for Come Dancing with the Kinks.
To the Bone and Solo Works.
To the Bone, a twenty-nine-song retrospective that includes two excellent new compositions, was recorded just before the Kinks split. After disbanding the group, Davies started a solo tour when his autobiography was published, reading excerpts, then playing various songs, which were collected on the album The Storyteller. The success of that show led VH1 to create a series titled Storytellers, on which artists would play selected songs and reminisce about their careers.
Another solo album, Other People’s Lives, appeared in 2006.
Davies crafted a remarkable musical career out of an astounding catalog of songs that deal with frustration, social commentary, cultural decay, and a flinty appreciation for the past and traditions. His song “Twentieth Century Man” is a deeply personal anthem of a man trapped in a modern world he finds depraved. Although Davies often betrays his deep emotions, his songs are rarely maudlin, and they are frequently marked by an astringent sense of irony.
Rock musicians have paid tribute to the Kinks for the visceral appeal of their early songs, some even contending that the concept of power chords originated with the band. Davies’s sense of theatricality led to many experiments and concept albums, and in the 1970’s the group often toured in costume, not only playing music but also acting out the dramas Davies had created. In his songs, Davies has continually denounced power, corruption, and commercialism, always championing the outsider, the iconoclast, and the forgotten. For these reasons, he has been extolled as a rocker with a conscience. ¶
Ray Davies Biography
English singer, guitarist, and songwriter