Almanac Music: Gary Brooker of Procol Harum has sadly passed away



Gary Brooker dead!


I was stunned, and wondered why I’d missed the obvious announcement of his  death in February, considering he was such a legendary figure in the music world.


By chance, I only discovered this fact this morning  (9/5) as I read the 30th Edition of Brian Wise’s wonderful music magazine Rhythms that had just arrived in the mail. Normally, I don’t over react to such announcements but I was deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Gary Brooker’s passing. A quiet, reserved man who enjoyed fly fishing, pipe smoking, and raising funds for old church buildings, he did not quite fit the mould of others  from the music scene, but was highly respected by all who knew him, and undoubtably, his music legacy will live on.



Gary Brooker wrote the music to one of the greatest songs of all time – albeit with some artistic licence, along with lyricist Keith Reed to create the magisterial ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, and recorded by the band he led, Procul Harum.




Like many music fans in the 60s, we’d read reports in the press about the latest musical developments happening overseas, the big hits on the UK and US charts before the music was actually released in Australia. As I remember it was probably due to copyright reasons but generally about six months later we eventually had the opportunity to listen to and buy these songs we’d read so eagerly about.


At the time, I remember reading about this band with a Latin name that meant ‘beyond these things’ or ‘way out’, and about their song ‘with its surreal lyrics to the haunting organ line, and the melancholy arrangement, loosely based on Bach’s Air on the G String’. With the Hammond organ the dominant sound in the recording – and I love that whirling, swirling  sound of a Hammond organ, I could not wait to hear the song played on Australian radio.


The rest is history. Along with many other fans I bought the record and made it one of the biggest selling hits of all time, and one of the most popular songs ever.


I suppose one of the problems creating such a monster song is their other songs tend to be overlooked, and this is a case in point with Procol Harum. Relative success was achieved with ‘Homburg’ (which I love), and ‘Conquistador’ but not to the heights of ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, and other songs had less success on the charts.




‘As Strong As Samson’ is one of my favourite songs by Procol Harum


I’ve included a Spotify playlist of their more popular songs to give you a feel for their other recordings.




Gary Brooker died of cancer in February, and was aged 76 at the time of his death. 



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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.

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