Pete Ham was born as “Peter William Ham,” on the 27 April 1947, Swansea, South Wales. He is primarily recognized for having been the lead singer and composer of the group Badfinger’s worldwide hit songs “No Matter What”, “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” He also co-wrote of the ballad “Without You,” which became a worldwide Number One for Harry Nilsson. The song has since become a ballad standard as having been covered by thousands of artists throughout the years since. Ham was granted two Ivor Novello awards related to the song in 1973.
Ham formed a local rock group called The Panthers around 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. They were relocated to London in 1966 and continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. Ham quickly became the prominent songwriter for the band. Ray Davies of The Kinks taking an initial interest in the group. Demo tracks produced by Davies surfaced decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles personal roadie and assistant) and they were eventually signed to the Beatles’ Apple label after getting approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly very impressed by the band’s songwriting abilities.
Pete and the band members had recorded hundreds of sound-on-sound demos in a small sound-proof at their communal home and these are what really led to The Beatles members interest in signing them – the first act for the new Apple Records label in 1968.
After an initial foray with the minor hit of “Maybe Tomorrow,” The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger upon the single release of “Come And Get It,” a composition written by Paul McCartney that was featured in the film, The Magic Christian. That became a worldwide Top Ten hit and launched the band to worldwide recognition.
Pete Ham and Badfinger followed with their worldwide hit written by Pete Ham, “No Matter What.” That had been released in late 1970. They followed with two successful Ham-written singles in “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” Pete Ham’s greatest songwriting success, his co-written composition “Without You,” a worldwide #1 as covered by Harry Nilsson, was released in 1972.
George Harrison, who had earlier given Pete his red Gibson SG in 1969, after being impressed with his talents, utilized him for a number of Apple album sessions, including “All Things Must Pass”, not to mention for other Apple artist’s recordings. This friendship between them culminated with Ham’s acoustic guitar duet with George on “Here Comes The Sun” at the The Concert For Bangla Desh in 1971.
For that performance, George had such confidence in Pete that he told him to just listen to the song and they’d simply go for it onstage, with two acoustic guitars. In fact, Pete related in an interview that they had just one quick “half” run-through before starting the concert. They performed almost flawlessly.
In 1972, Ham’s group Badfinger was picked-up by Warner Brothers Records, as the Apple label was crumbling. It seemed the band was primed for major recognition, but the run with Warner Brothers was not successful. Turmoil was everywhere the band turned.
Pete Ham committed suicide in 1975. Friends and business people related he felt locked in a box from many internal, financial, and managerial problems as he desperately had been seeking to clear up the mess and not getting anywhere. He was only 27 years old. He wrote in his final send-off note “I will not be able to love and trust any more. This is better.”
There are these special spirits out there who have enormous talent, but struggle mightily in this cold cruel world. We should celebrate what Pete did give us. It was moving, inspiring; he did leave a mark on many lives. Please help to keep his legacy going. And let’s see what we can do to improve on it …