Procol Harum founder Gary Brooker dies at 76 after battle with cancer: rest in peace
Gary Brookerco-founder, singer and songwriter of Procol Harum, has died aged 76 after a battle with cancer.
A long post on the Procol Harum website details that Brooker died peacefully at home.
Over the years, Procol Harum has released twelve studio albums, the latest being 2017 Novum. Brooker was the band’s only constant member throughout his career.
A little more of the official press release, which can be viewed in full here:
His influence far exceeds his production. Procol’s long sequel, 1968’s In Held ‘Twas in I, is a credited inspiration to many artists, including The Who and Queen. Procol were the first rock band to perform live with their own choral and orchestral arrangements. Entirely self-taught, Brooker’s seductive scores bristle with melodic interest, always serving up the songs and never – as with so many later imitators – treating the contrasting resources as oppositional. The last of some forty Procol concerts involving the world’s most renowned orchestras and concert halls took place at the London Palladium; its predecessor was a notable BBC Radio live presentation. It was intriguing, as Gary pointed out, to see how Procol Harum’s popularity, across the world, kept growing. But music that isn’t written to the liking of fashion has no reason to fall out of favor.
Brooker was in high demand as a collaborator: he performed, wrote and sang for Eric Clapton’s band and with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. He toured with Ringo’s All-Starrs and contributed to solo projects for Paul McCartney and for George Harrison, who featured on one of Gary’s four solo albums. Gary performed and sang at Albert Hall in the 2003 Concert for George. He has also accepted commissions – a score from the Danish Royal Ballet, a piece for mass bands in Switzerland – and sang by invitation in the film Evita by Sir Alan Parker.
Musical celebrities from Gary’s voluminous address book flocked to perform at his own star presentations, always raising money for charity (work recognized by his 2003 MBE). He also raised funds with “No Stiletto Shoes”, a high-energy side band that delivered the music of his early influences with raucous engagement. His latest charity project raised over a million pounds for the Royal Marsden Hospital with a single concert – days before the first Covid lockdown of 2020 – at London’s O2 arena.
Gary’s charisma was by no means confined to the stage. He lit up every room he walked into and his kindness to a family of multilingual fans was legendary. He was distinguished by his individuality, integrity and sometimes stubborn eccentricity. His biting wit and appetite for the ridiculous made him an invaluable storyteller (and his surreal in-between banter provided a fascinating contrast to the gravity of Procol Harum’s performances).
But despite all his other interests and skills – award-winning fisherman, pub owner, lyricist, painter, inventor – he was above all a devoted and loyal husband to Franky, whom he met in 1965 and married in 1968. Our thoughts must be with her, their families and friends at this extremely sad time.
May Gary Brooker rest in peace.