Full name, Raymond Douglas Davies; surname pronounced "Davis"; born June 21, 1944, in Muswell Hill, London, England; son of a gardener and a homemaker; married Rasa Dictpatris c. 1964 (divorced, 1973); married Yvonne Gunner (a teacher), 1976 (divorced c. 1980); married Pat Crosbie (a ballet dancer); children: (first marriage) two daughters, one named Louisa; (with singer Chrissie Hynde) Natalie. Education: Attended art school. Addresses: Record company-- MCA Records, Inc., 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
"During more than two decades," according to People critic Michael Small, British rock musician and composer Ray Davies has "written some of the most clever, sexy and thoughtful pop-rock songs ever," and helped make the Kinks "one of the coolest rock bands in history." As the driving force behind the Kinks--a group which has also included Ray's brother Dave Davies and artists Mick Avory, Peter Quaife, and John Gosling--Davies has brought rock fans hits like "You Really Got Me," "Lola," "Destroyer," and "Come Dancing." Though other members of the Kinks have come and gone, Davies has always served as the band's leader and as such, has released over 40 albums, including concept discs, rock operas, and outstanding live recordings. He has also earned the respect of his peers; in another People article Small quoted Davies's fellow rock star Pete Townshend of the Who as saying that when it came to lyrics, "in British rock Ray Davies is our only true and natural genius."
Davies was born June 21, 1944, in the Muswell Hill area of London. He was introverted as a child, but during his adolescence developed an affinity for soccer and considered becoming a professional player. He was also deeply interested in music, and learned to play the guitar and piano. Especially fond of the blues, he listened to recordings of the genre's greats, including Leadbelly and Bill Broonzy. When Davies was 16 he began playing rhythm and blues numbers in local bars with his younger brother Dave. He also performed in a local group called the Dave Hunt Band. Nevertheless, Davies did not look toward music as a career; after completing secondary schooling he enrolled in college to major in drama and fine arts.
Davies did not last long at college, however, and at the age of 19 dropped out to join the Ravens, a band in which his brother played. The Ravens played straightforward rock and roll in the style of American rock pioneer Chuck Berry. As Small put it, "with their wildly ragged sound and long hair, the Ravens became a hot act at society parties." Davies almost immediately assumed leadership of the band, which met with rapid success and was signed to a contract with Pye Records. In the early days Davies took to wearing mismatched outfits; someone took note of one clashing ensemble at a recording session and labeled him a "kink." Davies explained to Small: "He meant it as a put-down, but I thought, 'Why the hell not use the name?'" Thus the Ravens became the Kinks, just in time for the release of their first album, You Really Got Me, which in 1964 was issued in the United States on the Reprise label.
Although the first two singles from the album did nothing on the charts, Davies's confidence in his abilities was undiminished. One of the Kinks' producers had come up with what Small described as a "polished version" of the title track, "full of the overdubs and echoes that were popular in 1964," and wanted the band to release it. But Davies insisted on his rougher-sounding original, and, as he recounted for Small, told the producers, "If you release this, I'm never going to make another record." He got his way and "You Really Got Me" soared to Number One in England; it also fared well in the U.S. The song contained what Small deemed "an aggressive guitar sound that became a mainstay of heavy metal."
"You Really Got Me" was followed by the hits "All Day and All of the Night," "Who'll Be the Next in Line," and "Tired of Waiting for You." But Davies did not restrict himself to straight rock; he also composed satires on society and fashion, including "Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion." While the Kinks churned out hits, they also gained a reputation as rowdy and violent concert performers, often fighting amongst themselves on stage--conflicts between the Davies brothers the primary root of these battles. Though the circumstances are still cloudy, Davies believes it was this behavior that caused the American Federation of Musicians to bar the Kinks from playing in the United States from 1966 to 1968.
Perhaps because they were not allowed to promote their releases in the U.S., Davies and the Kinks fell into something of a popular slump during the late 1960s. Despite rave reviews from critics for their 1969 rock concept album Arthur, which was compared favorably with the Who's rock opera Tommy, the work yielded only the moderate hit single "Victoria." The band came back in a big way, however, with their 1970 album Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround. The smash hit single "Lola" was controversial as the first pop hit to deal blatantly with transvestitism and homosexuality. Although Small claimed that the infamous lyric "I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man and so is Lola" is "ambiguous--was Lola glad the narrator was a man, or was Lola also a man?"--Davies confided that the song was inspired by an incident from his own life that took place in a French nightclub. "One night I was dancing with this really attractive woman till dawn," he explained to Small. "Then she said, 'Come on back to my place,' and I said, 'Okay.' It wasn't until we got in the daylight that I saw the stubble on her chin. So I blew that one off."
During the early 1970s the Kinks returned to concept albums. Davies revived the character Mr. Flash from the band's 1969 effort, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, for the albums Preservation, Act I and Preservation, Act II; like Arthur these were more warmly received by critics than fans. Soap Opera, the Kinks' early 1975 concept release fared slightly better, but Schoolboys in Disgrace --a set of unrelated songs that came out later that year--was even more popular. Schoolboys marked the return of Dave Davies to the Kinks; he had left the band in 1973 over disagreements with his brother.
Despite other personnel changes, including the loss of longtime drummer Mick Avory--again due to personality conflicts--Davies and the Kinks continued to produce hits throughout the 1980s, among them "Destroyer" and "Come Dancing." They led off the 1990s with the album UK Jive, which prompted Small in a third People review to assert that Davies's music "still comes straight from the heart, the gut, and the soul." His impressive musical achievements notwithstanding, Davies modestly told Small: "I don't feel I've done enough with my life. I don't want to be known only as a guy who made hit records."
by Elizabeth Wenning
Ray Davies's Career
Singer, songwriter, guitarist. Played during the early 1960s with the Dave Hunt Band; joined the Ravens, c. 1963; member of the Kinks (previously the Ravens), 1964--. Has recorded most recently with MCA Records.
- Selective Works
- You Really Got Me Reprise, 1964.
- Kinks-Size Reprise, 1965.
- Kinda Kinks Reprise, 1965.
- Kinks Kinkdom Reprise, 1965.
- Kink Kontroversy Reprise, 1966.
- Greatest Hits! Reprise, 1966.
- Face to Face Reprise, 1967.
- "Live" Kinks Reprise, 1967.
- Something Else Reprise, 1968.
- Four More Respected Gentlemen Reprise, 1968.
- The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society Reprise, 1969.
- Arthur Reprise, 1969.
- Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Reprise, 1970.
- Muswell Hillbillies RCA, 1971.
- Kink Kronicles Reprise, 1972.
- Everybody's in Showbiz RCA, 1972.
- The Great Lost Kinks Album Reprise, 1973.
- Preservation, Act I RCA, 1973.
- Preservation, Act II RCA, 1974.
- Soap Opera RCA, 1975.
- Schoolboys in Disgrace RCA, 1975.
- Celluloid Heroes--The Kinks' Greatest RCA, 1976.
- Sleepwalker Arista, 1977.
- Misfits Arista, 1978.
- Low Budget Arista, 1979.
- One for the Road Arista, 1980.
- Second Time Around RCA, 1980.
- Give the People What They Want Arista, 1981.
- Word of Mouth Arista, 1984.
- Think Visual MCA, 1986.
- UK Jive MCA, 1990.
December 31, 2003: Davies received royal honors, becoming a Commander of the British Empire. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, January 5, 2004.
March 17, 2004: Davies was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Source: Reuters, www.reuters.com, March 17, 2004.
- People, May 11, 1987; July 6, 1987; February 19, 1990.
- Rolling Stone, January 15, 1987.