Gary Brooker, lead singer of prog-rockers Procol Harum, dies at 76
In 2018, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the band’s ballad “A Whiter Shade of Pale” — which has spawned more than 1,000 cover versions — into its Singles category.
The voice behind the 1967 classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale” has died.
Gary Brooker, frontman for British prog-rockers Procol Harum, died at his home following a battle with cancer on Feb. 19, according to a statement from the band. He was 76.
“Gary’s voice and piano were the single defining constant of Procol’s fifty-year international concert career. Without any stage antics or other gimmicks he was invariably the most watchable musician in the show,” the statement says.
Brooker, born May 29, 1945 in London, founded Procol Harum in 1966 with songwriter Keith Reid after the breakup of his first band, The Paramounts, which enjoyed fleeting success with the 1965 song, “Poison Ivy.”
Procol Harum’s debut single, the woozy, organ-drenched “A White Shade of Pale,” sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and topped the charts in the U.K.
The song, the band’s statement asserts, was “widely regarded as defining ‘The Summer of Love,’ yet it could scarcely have been more different from the characteristic records of that era.”
The legacy of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” extended to a No. 57 ranking in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” In 2018, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the ballad — which has spawned more than 1,000 cover versions — into its Singles category.
Procol Harum dotted the charts with other material – “Homburg” in 1967, “A Salty Dog” in 1969 and “Conquistador,” released as a single in 1972 – but the emotive “Whiter Shade” remained the band’s signature.
Brooker, who was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 2003 in recognition of his charity work, was also regarded for his collaborations with artists including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, who played on one of Brooker’s four solo albums.
“Musical celebrities from Gary’s bulging address book flocked to play at his own all-star presentations, always raising money for charity,” the band remarks in the statement, adding that Brooker’s last charity project raised more than a million pounds for the Royal Marsden Hospital with a concert at London’s O2 Arena in early 2020.
“Gary’s charisma was by no means confined to the stage. He lit up any room he entered, and his kindness to a multilingual family of fans was legendary. He was notable for his individuality, integrity, and occasionally stubborn eccentricity. His mordant wit, and appetite for the ridiculous, made him a priceless raconteur,” the band says.
Brooker is survived by his wife Franky, whom he married in 1968. The family announced that a private funeral and memorial celebration will be held at a later date.
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