Procol Harum Founder Gary Brooker Dead at 76
Gary Brooker, singer and one of the founders of Procol Harum, died this past weekend at age 76.
"With the deepest regret, we must announce the death on Feb. 19, 2022, of Gary Brooker MBE," a tweet from the band's account reads. According to a statement posted on Procol Harum's website, Brooker had been receiving cancer treatment and died peacefully at home.
"Gary’s charisma was by no means confined to the stage," the statement notes. "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 (and his surreal inter-song banter made a fascinating contrast with the gravitas of Procol Harum’s performances)."
Brooker, who was born in London in 1945, grew up in a musical family — his father, Harry Brooker, was a professional pedal steel guitarist. Growing up, the younger Brooker learned to play various instruments, including piano, cornet and trombone. When he entered college, he planned to study zoology and botany but soon dropped out to pursue music.
In 1962, Brooker formed the Paramounts with his guitarist friend Robin Trower, and the group found moderate success in the then-blossoming British rock scene, landing a Top 40 hit with their version of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Poison Ivy." Unable to follow up the success, the group disbanded in 1966.
Listen to the Paramounts' 'Poison Ivy'
That same year, Brooker formed a new band, Procol Harum, with friend Keith Reid, who became the band's primary lyricist. A year later, in 1967, they released their classic hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale," which reached No. 1 on the U.K singles chart and remained there for six weeks. Since its release, the song has become one of the most commercially successful singles of all time, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, and has been used in countless movie and TV soundtracks.
Procol Harum boasted multiple lineups throughout their career, though Brooker was a mainstay. They broke up in 1977 but reformed in 1991 and continued to tour and record. Their most recent album, Novum, arrived in 2017.
Watch Procol Harum Perform 'A White Shade of Pale' in 2006
Brooker also performed alongside many rock legends during his long career, including playing piano on George Harrison's landmark All Things Must Pass and providing backing vocals and keyboards for Eric Clapton's 1981 album Another Ticket.
"For all his other interests and skills – prize-winning angler, 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," the band's statement noted. "Our thoughts must be with her, their families and friends at this extremely sad time."
A private funeral and memorial celebration will be planned for a later date.