Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker dies aged 76

Former Beatle Ringo Starr (right) paid tribute to late singer Gary Brooker on social media, on Feb 22, 2022. PHOTO: RINGO STARR/FACEBOOK

LONDON (AFP) - Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker, best known for providing vocals on the 1967 international hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale, has died aged 76, the psychedelic rock band's official website announced on Tuesday (Feb 22).

"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," said a statement.

"Aged 76, he had been receiving treatment for cancer, but died peacefully at home," it added.

In 1967, A Whiter Shade of Pale stayed at number one in the British singles chart for six weeks and climbed to number five on the United States Billboard Hot 100.

One of the anthems of the 1967 social phenomenon Summer of Love, it sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and became one of the most commercially successful and covered singles in history.

The song, famous for its soaring Bach-inspired melody played on a Hammond organ and melancholic lyrics, was estimated to have been covered by some 1,000 artistes around the world.

In 2009, music licensing body Phonographic Performance Limited said it was the most-played song in public places in Britain in the last 75 years.

Brooker, who faced a battle for royalties from the track with organist Matthew Fisher, said topping the chart was a "great and unsought honour".

"It isn't something I could have remotely imagined when I wrote the song and then made that legendary recording with Procol Harum all those years ago," he said.

"Every musician and singer hopes to reach out and communicate to the audience, so it means a great deal that the record has such an indefinable popularity and lasting appeal."

Brooker toured with the band for 40 years, despite it splitting in 1977 for 14 years.

He also played, wrote and sang for English singer Eric Clapton's band and with Rolling Stones guitarist Bill Wyman.

Brooker toured with former Beatle Ringo Starr's band and contributed to solo projects for fellow Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

A lover of the Blues, Brooker also brought his love of classical music into the 1960s musical melting pot, making his band one of the forerunners of the prog-rock movement.

Brooker was born in east London, on May 29, 1945 and learned the piano, guitar and cornet at an early age, taught by his father - a professional musician.

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