The words for this romantic ballad of separation were written by Ron Webster, an amateur folk singer and silversmith living in the Solihull area of the Midlands. The inspiration came to him one rainy night when he was returning home from work on the upper deck of a Midland bus with wet and dripping windows. He wished he was somewhere where it was warm, not on a dripping-wet Midland bus. Roger Whittaker was hosting a radio series at the time and he invited his listeners to submit lyrics that he would put to music. Webster sent in "The Last Farewell," which Whittaker liked, and after putting his own music to Webster's words, he recorded it on his 1971 album Special Kind Of Man. Four years later an Atlanta radio station began to play the track after the wife of a programmer heard it on vacation in Canada. It was released as a single in the States, where it became Whittaker's sole Top 40 hit. It went on to become his biggest ever hit, selling over 11 million copies worldwide.
Among numerous cover versions is one by Elvis Presley on his 1976 album From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee.
This was not the only hit song to originate from Whittaker's radio competition. Another amateur songwriter Joan Stanton sent in a lyric "Why," which Whittaker put to music and recorded as a single. It peaked at #47 in the UK in 1971.
Roger Whittaker was a singer-songwriter who was born and raised in Kenya and came to England to attend university there. After graduating in the early 1960s he turned to music and among the other UK hits he recorded were: "Durham Town (The Leavin')" (1969 #12), "I Don't Believe In If Anymore" (1969 #8), "New World In The Morning" (1970 #17), and in a duet with fellow easy-listening singer Des O'Connor "The Skye Boat Song" (1986 #10). Whittaker has won two Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting, in 1971-72 for "Why" and in 1975-76 for the other song that came from his radio competition, "The Last Farewell."