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R.I.P. Gary Brooker, Procol Harum Singer Dead at 76

Following a battle with cancer

gary brooker procol harum rip obituary
Gary Brooker, photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images
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    Gary Brooker, who fronted Procol Harum for 55 years and co-wrote their smash hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has died at 76.  According to a statement from the band, he passed away “peacefully at home” following a battle with cancer.

    Born in East London in 1945, Brooker had his first taste of success in 1964 with the beat group The Paramounts. The band charted a modest Top 40 hit in the UK with “Poison Ivy” before disbanding in 1966. The next year, he co-founded Procol Harum with Keith Reid, Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, and David Knights.

    In 1967 Brooker was vaulted to international fame with the release of “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” This surreal song defies easy interpretation, but the wistful melancholy helped it become one of the anthems for the Summer of Love.

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    The track was a success, but Procol Harum quickly moved on both emotionally and artistically. The band said that Brooker’s most famous song wasn’t “characteristic of his own writing,” and added, “Over thirteen albums Procol Harum never sought to replicate it, preferring to forge a restlessly progressive path, committed to looking forward, and making each record a ‘unique entertainment’. Gary’s voice and piano were the single defining constant of Procol’s fifty-year international concert career.”

    Procol Harum released 13 albums, most recently Novum in 2017. Brooker also became a sought-after collaborator, playing and writing for artists including Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Ringo’s All-Stars. He also sang and acted in the 1996 film Evita starring Madonna.

    According to his bandmates, “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.” Check out a selection of his works below.

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