Ray Shulman, a co-founding member and bassist of the influential prog-rock band Gentle Giant, has died at the age of 73.
According to his brother and bandmate, Derek, Ray passed away on March 30th after “he bravely battled a long illness.”
Having grown up in a musical family, Ray and brothers Phil and Derek started their first band together in the early 1960s. Performing as Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, the band quickly earned a record deal with EMI and achieved a top 10 single with their song “Kites.” At one point, their lineup even featured a young piano player named Reginald Dwight, who went on to find fame as Elton John.
Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s existence was short-lived, as the Shulman brothers became disillusioned by the music industry and being seen as one-hit wonders. After unsuccessfully attempting to release music under the moniker The Moles, the group broke up.
In 1970, the Shulman brothers formed a new band called Gentle Giant alongside Gary Green, Kerry Minnear, and Martin Smith. Incorporating elements of rock, jazz, and classical music, Gentle Giant were among the early pioneers of the progressive rock genre alongside the likes of King Crimson, ELP, Yes, and Genesis.
Gentle Giant’s 1970 self-titled debut featured an array of complex, multi-layered arrangements and unusual instrumentation. Ray played a variety of instruments, including bass, guitar, violin, viola, recorder, and keyboardist, and also composed most of the group’s music alongside Minnear.
Over the next several years, Gentle Giant released several more well-received albums, including 1971’s Acquiring the Taste, 1972’s Three Friends, 1972’s Octopus, 1973’s In a Glass House, and 1975’s Free Hand.
Following Gentle Giant’s split in 1979, Shulman worked as a producer and engineer for artists including The Sugarcubes, The Sundays, and Ian McCulloch.
“Ray really was a genius in so many ways. He was such a kind and caring soul,” his brother Derek wrote in a tribute post. “He was an incredible composer, musician, music producer & tech wizard. He was a true artist and preferred to stay in the background and let his body of work speak for him” rather than talk about himself.”