Gary Brooker, Procol Harum Singer, Dies at 76

Gary Brooker, singer and pianist of progressive rock group Procol Harum, who co-wrote songs including “A pale white color,” The inevitable but overwhelming hit of The Summer of Love in 1967, died Saturday at his home in Surrey, England. He was 76 years old.

Mr. Brooker was being treated for cancer, the band said in a statement confirm his death.

With a gritty, weather-beaten voice and a piano style that permeates gospel, classical, blues and British music halls, Mr. Brooker led Procol Harum in songs that mingled with pride. Floral and whimsical, orchestral and rock grandeur. Mr. Brooker composed nearly all of Procol Harum’s music; Keith Reid, who did not perform with the band, provided lyrics that allude to literature and history, while also revolving around sublime stories, sometimes at the same time.

Although “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was both the first and biggest hit and the band was determined to avoid fanfare, Procol Harum has maintained a career spanning five decades. It recorded and toured steadily until 1977, and it sporadically assembled in a line-up led by Mr. Brooker to continue making the album through 2017. Mr. Brooker, the band’s statement said, is notable for his individuality, integrity, and sometimes a bit of stubborn eccentricity. His wit and fondness for the ridiculous have made him an invaluable disruptor (and his surreal inter-song banter makes for a compelling contrast to the appeal of the film). performances by Procol Harum). ”

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” is based on “Air on a G String” by Johann Sebastian Bach for its chord development; Matthew Fisher’s organ opens with a dignified tune, and Mr. Brooker sings a quiet, backward piece that brings out the eerie paradoxes of Mr. Reid’s lyrics. In 2009, Mr. Fisher sued successfully to receive a Credits are shared for songwriting.

Procol Harum’s combination of classical influences, poetic lyrics and expansive compositions made it a forerunner of progressive rock, but Mr. Brooker generally rejected that genre. “Prog – it wasn’t invented when we started,” he said Goldmine magazine in 2021. “We always strive to be progressive in what we do. So we made our first album and then we try to move on, to make progress. ”

Gary Brooker was born on May 29, 1945, in London. His father, Harry Brooker, is a musician; Gary took piano, cornet, trombone, guitar and banjo lessons while growing up. Harry Brooker died when Gary was 11 years old and his mother, Violet May Brooker, found work on a factory assembly line.

Brooker dropped out of college to become a musician, and in the late 1950s he began playing in the Paramounts, which performed mainly American R&B songs. By the time the Paramounts disbanded in 1966, they shared the bills with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles; Mr. Brooker will then play studio sessions and concerts with the former Beatles.

Mr. Brooker formed a new band, which included Mr. Fisher, to play songs he had begun writing with Mr. Reid: Pinewoods, soon renamed Procol Harum, broken. Latin for “beyond these.” The new band’s piano and organ combination was uncommon in British rock, although American gospel groups used it, and so did rock group The Band. Mr. Brooker described his original idea for the band as “a little bit classic, a little bit Bob Dylan, a bit Ray Charles.”

Procol Harum’s first recording session, working with studio musicians, yielded “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. When it became a hit, guitarist Robin Trower and drummer BJ Wilson, who had been at Paramounts, joined Procol Harum to record their 1967 debut album of the same name. Its structural ambitions broadened. on the 1968 album, “Shine On Brightly”, consisting of a 5-part, 18-minute set “In Held ‘Twas in I.”

Mr. Brooker married Françoise Riedo in 1968. She still lives with him.

Procol Harum’s 1969 album title track “A salty dogBrooker’s dramatic orchestral arrangement, and Procol Harum soon began performing with the orchestra. Its 1971 album, “Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra”, earned it an American hit with an extended remake of “Conquistador,” from Procol Harum’s debut album. By then, both Mr. Fisher and Mr. Trower had left Procol Harum and Mr. Brooker was the band’s obvious leader. Its 1973 album, “Big hotel,” reveling with the orchestra; 1974 “Exotic Birds and Fruits” categorically disproved it. Musicians Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller produced “Procol’s Ninth” in 1975.

In 1977, Mr. Brooker decided that “Currently, Procol Harum has nothing more to say. He joined Eric Clapton’s band in the late 1970s, toured and recorded, and he made solo albums. Mr. Brooker’s 1985 album, “Echo in the Night,” produced by Mr. Fisher and with contributions from Mr. Reid and Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Brooker rebooted Procol Harum in 1990 with Mr. Fisher, Mr. Trower and Mr. Reid to record “The Prodigal Stranger.” In the long period between the studio albums of Procol Harum – the band released “The Well’s on Fire” in 2003 and “Novum” in 2017 – which Pete Brown replaced Mr. Reid as lyricist – Mr. Brooker has toured with Procol Harum, performed with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, and held charity concerts that earned him recognition as a Member of the British Empire in 2013. In 2021, Procol Harum released “Missing People” and “Unfair War,” an ultimate pair of reflective Brooker-Reid songs.

Mr. Brooker made a sober assessment of his band in 2021.

“We didn’t do a lot of grooves, but we played pretty well,” Mr. Brooker told Goldmine. “But at its core it’s music where I’m trying to reach people and make them feel something is right. And I don’t mean they’ll jump up and down and want to jump. Good if they want. But I mean, if I saw a single tear roll down their face, that would be a good response – to reach people with their feelings, on the inside somewhere, not just on the surface. surface. ”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/arts/music/gary-brooker-dead.html Gary Brooker, Procol Harum Singer, Dies at 76

Fry Electronics Team

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