Procol Harum: singer Gary Brooker and ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ writer dead at 76 - and who was his wife?

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Procol Harum frontman Gary Brooker has died aged 76, his band has confirmed in a statement posted on its official website.

The psychedelic rock band were best known for their 1967 debut hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which topped the singles charts for six weeks.

The band’s statement added that his charisma extended beyond the stage and that he “lit up any room he entered” and that “his kindness to a multilingual family of fans was legendary”.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who was Gary Brooker?

Born in Hackney Hospital in 1945, Brooker grew up in East London.

As a child Brooker learned to play piano, cornet and trombone, and founded his first band The Paramounts in 1962 with guitarist friend Robin Trower.

He formed Procol Harum with his friend Keith Reid in 1966, and led the band for more than five decades, and during that time he helped write and was lead vocals on their 13 albums.

In 1977, A Whiter Shade Of Pale was named joint winner alongside Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody as Best British Pop Single 1952–1977 at the Brit Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Brooker also collaborated with many great artists including writing and singing for Eric Clapton’s band and with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Gary Brooker performing live in 1976 (Photo: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)Gary Brooker performing live in 1976 (Photo: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Gary Brooker performing live in 1976 (Photo: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

He also rubbed shoulders with the Beatles as he toured with Ringo’s All-Starrs, and contributed to solo projects for Paul McCartney and for George Harrison, who guested on one of Gary’s four solo albums.

According to Procol Harum’s statement, Brooker later added angling, painting, inventing and owning a pub to his other interests.

He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2003 for his charitable services.

What did he die of?

The singer, pianist and composer had been receiving treatment for cancer before dying peacefully at home on Saturday 19 February.

A statement posted on the band’s official website said: “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.

“Aged 76, he had been receiving treatment for cancer, but died peacefully at home.”

Who was his wife?

In July 1968, Brooker married Françoise “Franky” Riedo, a Swiss au pair, whom he met circa 1965.

The couple had no children.

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