In Memoriam|

Photo: Gary Brooker (from Procol Harum’s website) | By Andy Greene, Rolling Stone | Procol Harum frontman Gary Brooker, who led the band throughout their 55-year history and co-wrote and sang their 1967 classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” died at his home from cancer on Saturday, Feb. 19. He was 76.

“His first single with Procol Harum, 1967’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale,’ is widely regarded as defining ‘The Summer of Love’, yet it could scarcely have been more different from the characteristic records of that era,” Procol Harum said in a group statement. “Nor was it characteristic of his own writing. Over thirteen albums Procol Harum never sought to replicate it, preferring to forge a restlessly progressive path, committed to looking forward, and making each record a ‘unique entertainment’.”

“He lit up any room he entered, and his kindness to a multilingual family of fans was legendary,” they continued. “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).”

Brooker grew up in London and formed the Paramounts with guitarist Robin Trower when he was just 17. They gained a large following on the London club scene and even shared bills with the Rolling Stones on several occasions; but the group found little success with their studio recordings outside of a 1964 cover of “Poison Ivy” that became a minor hit in England.

The Paramounts split in 1966, and while Brooker originally planned to retire from performing to work as a songwriter, he met lyricist Keith Reid and forged such a tight working relationship that the pair started a new group: Procol Harum. Their first single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was inspired by Brooker’s love of classical musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.

“About that time, the Jacques Louissier Trio — which had a pianist, bass player and drummer — made an album called Play Bach,” Brooker told Songwriter Universe in 2020. “They were a jazz trio, and they’d start off with a piece of Bach, and they would improvise around it. Louissier had done a fabulous version of what was called ‘Air On a G String’ which was also used in a set of good adverts in Britain. And all those things came together one morning [on ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’] … a bit of Bach and ‘Air On a G String’ going through my head.”

Once he added in Reid’s lyrics, Brooker had a masterpiece on his hands that would reach Number One all over the world and turn Procol Harum in a major band almost overnight. . . .
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What does “Procol Harum” mean? Procol Harum is an incorrect Latin translation which is supposed to mean ‘beyond these things’ The group named their band Procol Harum after a friend’s cat. The correct translation would be procul his.

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Seattle Grunge Pioneer Mark Lanegan Dead at Age 57

By Lyndsey Parker, Yahoo Music | Mark Lanegan — best known as the brooding, booming-voiced, Grammy-nominated frontman of the Singles- popularized ‘90s Seattle grunge band Screaming Trees, has died, according to a statement released by his publicist, Keith Hagan.

“Our beloved friend Mark Lanegan passed away this morning at his home in Killarney, Ireland,” the statement read Tuesday afternoon. “A beloved singer, songwriter, author, and musician, he was 57 and is survived by his wife Shelley. No other information is available at this time. The family asks everyone to respect their privacy at this time.”

Mark William Lanegan was born in Ellensburg, Wash, on Nov. 25, 1964, and in 1984 he formed Screaming Trees, originally playing drums in the lineup before switching to lead vocal duties. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney, Screaming Trees became leading lights the early-‘90s Pacific Northwest scene — eventually breaking through to the mainstream with their fifth album (and major-label debut), 1991’s Uncle Anesthesia, which was produced by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. When their song “Nearly Lost You” was featured on Cameron Crowe’s Singles soundtrack a year later, it was a modern rock smash, peaking at No. 5 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart and at No. 12 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

Throughout his career, before and after the Screaming Trees’ split in 2000, Lanegan released 11 solo albums, including his 1990 debut, The Winding Sheet, which featured collaborations with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic abd was declared by Dave Grohl to be “one of the best albums of all time.” In the grunge scene’s early days, Lanegan also worked on a short-lived, little-heard Leadbelly tribute band called the Jury with Cobain and Novoselic, and he was in general a much sought-after and prolific collaborator due to his distinctively resonant baritone.

Lanegan appeared on Above by Mad Season (a supergroup featuring Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready); . . .
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Lanegan also co-wrote the theme song for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and penned Bourdain’s obituary for Bourdain for The Observer in 2018; it was reportedly Bourdain who encouraged him to write a memoir. . .
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No cause of Lanegan’s death was given at press time. While the singer battled serious alcohol and drug addiction during the ‘90s and early 2000s (in 1992, his arm actually became so badly infected due to heroin use that it nearly had to be amputated), he had been sober since at least 2010, after his friend Courtney Love paid for a year of his rehab that he said saved his life. In March 2021, Lanegan was hospitalized with a severe case of COVID-19, which put him in a coma and temporarily robbed him of his ability to hear or walk. It is unclear if the coronavirus caused or contributed to the singer-songwriter’s death.
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