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Gary Brooker, founder of Procol Harum, dies aged 76

Brooker was receiving cancer treatment at the time of his death

By Will Richards

Procol Harum's Gary Brooker
Procol Harum's Gary Brooker (Photo: Alamy)

Gary Brooker, singer and founder of British rockers Procol Harum, has died at the age of 76, it’s been confirmed.

The news of Brooker’s death was confirmed by Procol Harum’s official Twitter account, with a statement on their website confirming that Brooker died peacefully at home on Saturday (February 19) after receiving cancer treatment.

“With the deepest regret, we must announce the death on Feb. 19, 2022, of Gary Brooker MBE,” the band’s tweet read, with the statement on the website adding: “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 (and his surreal inter-song banter made a fascinating contrast with the gravitas of Procol Harum’s performances).”

The statement continued: “But 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. Our thoughts must be with her, their families and friends at this extremely sad time.”

Born in London in 1945, Brooker formed Procol Harum in 1962 with primary lyricist Keith Reid. Their biggest hit, ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, was released in 1967 and has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide.

The band initially broke up in 1977 before reforming in 1991 for tours and new studio albums. Their final album with Brooker, titled ‘Novum’, was released in 2017.

Since the news of Brooker’s death broke, fans, musicians, labels and more have been paying tribute to him online.

“More sad news,” one fan responded on Twitter. “Procol Harum were so much more than their hit Whiter Shade of Pale for which they are mostly known for. A very much underappreciated and versatile band. RIP Gary.”

Another called Brooker “a man whose voice and personality lit up so many lives.”

Cherry Red Records, who released a number of his recent albums, wrote: “We’re sad to hear the news that Gary Brooker of Procol Harum has died. The single constant of the band’s fifty-year career, Gary’s voice & piano playing was legendary and it was an honour to work with him over the past few years. He will be missed.”

“Gary Brooker was not just one of the great voices, but also one of the great tunesmiths of his generation,” journalist and musician Phillippe Auclair tweeted in tribute.

“This song [‘A Salty Dog’], a big hit then, features one of pop’s most inspired and daring harmonic progressions – which, not so strangely, reminds me of Judee Sill.”