Gary Brooker, the frontman for Procol Harum best known for singing “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has died. He was 76 years old.
“With the deepest regret, we must announce the death on 19 February 2022 of Gary Brooker MBE, singer, pianist, and composer of Procol Harum, and a brightly shining, irreplaceable light in the music industry,” the band wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
Brooker started his career with The Paramounts, and when they disbanded, he founded Procol Harum in 1967. Their first single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” became a defining hit of the era, and in 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
“Gary’s voice and piano were the single defining constant of Procol’s fifty-year international concert career,” the band’s statement continued. “Without any stage antics or other gimmicks, he was invariably the most watchable musician in the show (he played several other instruments in the studio).”
“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,” they wrote. “He was notable for his individuality, integrity, and occasionally stubborn eccentricity. His biting 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).”
When Procol Harum broke up in 1977, Brooker joined Eric Clapton’s band. In 2003, Brooker was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, in recognition of his charity work.
In July 1968, Brooker married Françoise Riedo, a Swiss au pair. The couple never had children, and Brooker’s bandmates praised him for his devotion to his wife.
“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,” the band wrote. “Our thoughts must be with her, their families, and friends at this extremely sad time.”