Entertainment

Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, singer of A Whiter Shade of Pale, dead at 76

Gary Brooker, the Procol Harum frontman who sang one of the most enduring hits of the 1960s, A Whiter Shade of Pale, has died. He was 76.

In addition to classic hit, Brooker led band in collaboration with Edmonton Symphony

Gary Brooker performs at a benefit concert in March 2020 at the O2 Arena in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Gary Brooker, the Procol Harum frontman who sang one of the most enduring hits of the 1960s, A Whiter Shade of Pale, has died. He was 76.

The English rock band said Brooker died at his home on Saturday. He had been receiving treatment for cancer.

A statement posted on the band's official website said: "With the deepest regret we must announce the death on February 19 2022 of Gary Brooker MBE, singer, pianist and composer of Procol Harum, and a brightly-shining, irreplaceable light in the music industry."

The London-born Brooker was singer and keyboard player with the band, which had a huge hit with its first single, A Whiter Shade of Pale. With its Baroque-flavoured organ solo and mysterious opening line — "We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels 'cross the floor" — the song became one of the signature tunes of 1967.

It topped the U.K. album chart for six weeks, was a top-10 hit in the United States and in 2018 was one of six singles inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It appeared on the massive-selling soundtrack for the film The Big Chill and has been covered by a wide range of artists.

Brooker continued to lead Procol Harum for more than five decades, through various lineup changes and 13 albums. The band never had another hit song on the same scale, though songs like Grand Hotel and Conquistador earned airplay on rock stations.

Collaborated with Beatles members

One of the band's albums was the well-received Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in 1971, one of the early examples of a rock group performing with classical musicians. The band returned to Edmonton in the early 1990s for a couple of performances with the orchestra.

Brooker released four solo albums and collaborated with most of the individual Beatles — on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Paul McCartney's Back to the Egg and by touring with Ringo Starr's all-star band. Brooker also wrote and sang for Eric Clapton's band and appeared on Kate Bush's 2005 release Aerial.

In 2006, Procol Harum's former organ player, Matthew Fisher, sued Brooker over the famous Hammond organ solo in A Whiter Shade of Pale. Brooker said he wrote the Bach-inspired melody before Fisher joined the band, but a judge awarded Fisher a share of the credit and royalties, alongside Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.

The judge said Fisher's contribution to the song was "substantial but not, in my judgment, as substantial as that of Mr. Brooker."

In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II made Brooker a member of the Order of the British Empire for services to charity.

With files from CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now