Scottish musician best known as one half of the Sutherland Brothers

Born: November 17, 1948

Died: November 25, 2019

IAIN Sutherland, who has died aged 71, was a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter who was most well-known for his work during the 1970s as one half of the Sutherland Brothers. A duo formed with Gavin, Sutherland’s younger brother, the Sutherland Brothers were famed – with the band Quiver as credited co-players – for their 1976 top five UK hit Arms of Mary.

Written by Iain, Arms of Mary was a plaintive and radio-friendly folk-rock ballad in which the narrator reminisces over the woman he first made love to. It was successful across Europe, particularly in Ireland, the Netherlands and with Flemish-speaking Belgians, where it was number one, and it represented the main gravitational pull on the Sutherland Brothers’ career as recording artists. The album from which it came, 1975’s Reach for the Sky, was a UK top 30 hit, and Secrets, the lead single from ‘76’s follow-up album Slipstream, was their only other UK top 40 hit.

The Sutherland Brothers’ other major claim to fame was as the original artists behind Rod Stewart’s 1975 international hit and enduring signature song, Sailing. Composed by Gavin, the track was first recorded by the brothers (Iain played harmonium) and released as a single in 1972, when it failed to trouble the charts.

Yet when Stewart’s then-girlfriend Dee Harrington saw the pair perform on the Old Grey Whistle Test the same year, she recommended them to him, and Stewart went to check the group out at the Marquee Club in London.

There followed support dates on the Faces’ final tour, with Gavin occasionally filling in on drums for the headline group, and the brothers wrote songs with Stewart. Apparently two were completed for his 1975 album Atlantic Crossing, but not used, and the master tapes have since been lost; yet Stewart also recorded Sailing because it fitted with the album’s theme – it coincided with his emigration to America – and was talked into releasing it as a single.

Sailing went on to be a number one hit around the world, including the UK, where it was in the charts for more than 30 combined weeks. Ironically, however, despite the theme of the album which it accompanied, Stewart’s version of the song was not a big success in America.

The Sutherlands’ (I Don’t Want to Love You But) You Got Me Anyway remained their biggest and only US hit, at number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. The 1975 single Ain’t Too Proud, meanwhile, featured guitar from Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour.

In 1977, after five years, the Sutherlands and the Cambridge-based Quiver – who originally teamed up in order to combine the former’s ability as songwriters and the latter’s skill as players – discontinued working together, and in 1979 Iain and Gavin released their final collaborative album, When the Night Comes Down.

Iain released the solo albums Mixed Emotions (1983) and Fandango (1985), with the more recent recording Back to the Sea being a tribute to the Scottish landscape of his youth.

Iain Sutherland was born in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, in 1948, and raised in Peterhead, where his father played in a Scottish country dance band. In his teens the family followed his father’s work to Stoke-on-Trent, and upon leaving school both Iain and Gavin moved to London to play music. They recorded their first single, Smokie Blues Away, in 1968 as A New Generation, and played a John Peel session, while their first single as the Sutherland Brothers Band was 1972’s The Pie.

In later years settling into rural life and occasional songwriting in Shropshire, Sutherland saw Arms of Mary and other compositions of his recorded by artists including the Everly Brothers, Keith Urban, Boyzone, Merle Haggard, John Travolta and Joan Baez. A husband, father and grandfather, he died peacefully at home after illness.