Raymond Douglas Davies, CBE (born June 21, 1944 in Muswell Hill, London) is an influential British rock musician, best known as lead singer-songwriter for The Kinks
- one of the most influential and prolific British Invasion bands - which he led with his younger brother, Dave. He has also acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television.
The musically inclined Davies was an art school student in London in 1962-1963, when The Kinks
developed into a professional performing band. He also began writing songs at this time. 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 of his composition "You Really Got Me". Between 1966 and 1976, Davies led The Kinks
through a period of musical experimentation, with notable artistic achievements and commercial success. Between 1977 and the group's informal dissolution in 1996, Davies and The Kinks
reverted to a more mainstream rock format.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
with the band in 1990, and was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. He has intermittently performed solo since the late 1990s.
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 music industry.
Ray Davies' compositions over his forty-year career have been an astonishing study in contrasts, from the influential proto-heavy metal powerchord rock and roll of the early Kinks'
hits in 1964-1966 (most prominently "You Really Got Me") followed a few years later by more sensitive, compassionate songs ("Waterloo Sunset", "Shangri-La", "Big Sky"), and still later by anthems ("Lola"), true musical theatre (the Preservation albums), and commercial rock which combined elements of all of these ("Come Dancing").
Davies' songwriting has often been acclaimed as more mature, sophisticated, and subtle than that of many of his peers among American and British rock musicians and has been called the "greatest humanist in rock". While his lyrics were often deceptively simple, focused on time-honored rock themes such as love, sexual attraction and partying, they often contained elements of satire, examples including "A Well-Respected Man", which ridiculed conservative suburban values, and "Dandy", which mocked the superficiality of the Mod lifestyle. In addition, his later work showed signs of social conscience, examples being "God's Children" and songs on the album Muswell Hillbillies, which denounced commercialism in favor of living simply, and "Dead End Street", which portrayed the stagnant British economy of the late 1960s.
Davies' songs on the 1968 Kinks'
album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
, embraced nostalgia and preservation as themes long before they became fashionable. Many of his best songs focus on the small-scale, poignant dramas of everyday people ("Waterloo Sunset", "Two Sisters", "Till Death Do Us Part"), commonly told as wistful mini-stories.
Aside from the lengthy Kinks'
discography, Davies has released two solo albums, the 1985 release Return to Waterloo
(which accompanied a television film he wrote and directed), and the 1998 release The Storyteller
. Since The Kinks
ceased performing and recording in 1996, Davies has toured independently (such as the Storyteller tours), and more recently with a backing band. 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
, followed by a full album Other People's Lives
in early 2006.