Gary Brooker

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Gary Brooker
Brooker in 2018
Brooker in 2018
Background information
Born(1945-05-29)29 May 1945
London, England
Died19 February 2022(2022-02-19) (aged 76)
Surrey, England
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • piano
Years active1962–2022
Formerly of

Gary Brooker MBE (29 May 1945 – 19 February 2022) was an English singer and pianist, and the founder and lead singer of the rock band Procol Harum.

Early life[edit]

Born in Hackney Hospital, East London, on 29 May 1945,[1][2] Brooker grew up in Hackney before the family moved out to Middlesex (Bush Hill Park and then to nearby Edmonton).[3] His father Harry Brooker was a professional musician, playing pedal steel guitar with Felix Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders, and as a child Brooker learned to play piano, cornet, and trombone.[4] In 1954 the family moved to the seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where Brooker attended Westcliff High School for Boys.[5] His father died of a heart attack when Gary was 11 years old, forcing his mother to work in order to make ends meet, while Brooker himself took on a paper-round.[6] When he left school, he went on to Southend Municipal College to study zoology and botany but dropped out to become a professional musician.[7]


Brooker founded the Paramounts in 1962 with his guitarist friend, Robin Trower.[8] The band gained respect within the burgeoning 1960s British R&B scene, which yielded the Beatles, the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, the Rolling Stones, and many others. The Rolling Stones, in particular, were Paramounts fans, sharing the stage with them several times in the early 1960s.[9]

In 1966, Brooker founded Procol Harum with his friend Keith Reid.[10] "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is the worldwide hit for which Procol Harum is best known, but Brooker's melancholic vocals and emotive, eclectic piano playing were a key part of the band's musical mix.[11] In the early years Brooker, Hammond organist Matthew Fisher, and Trower were the guiding musical forces behind the band, but after disparities in style became too much and Fisher and Trower left, Brooker was the clear leader.[12][13] Brooker started a solo career and released the album No More Fear of Flying in 1979.[14]

The same year, Brooker joined friend and neighbour Eric Clapton's band. With Brooker in the line-up, they released the studio album Another Ticket.[15] Clapton fired the entire band in 1981, but he and Brooker remained good friends afterwards, and were for many years neighbours in the Surrey Hills. Brooker joined Clapton for several one-off benefit gigs over the years. Brooker sang lead vocal on the Alan Parsons Project song "Limelight", on their 1985 album, Stereotomy. Brooker sang the lead vocal of the song "No News from the Western Frontier", a single taken from the album Hi-Tec Heroes by the Dutch performer Ad Visser.[16]

A new incarnation of Procol Harum, led by Brooker, continued touring the world, celebrating its 40th anniversary in July 2007 with two days of musical revels at St John's, Smith Square, in London. Brooker also toured with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band in 1997 and 1999,[17][18] and he was also a member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings for several years, appearing on three of their albums and touring with the band.[19] On 28 September 1996, as the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he organized a charity concert to raise funds for his local church, St Mary and All Saints, in Surrey. The resulting live CD of the concert, Within Our House, originally released on a fan club CD in a limited run of 1000 units, later became a collectable recording. His guests and supporting artists included Dave Bronze, Michael Bywater, Mark Brzezicki, and Robbie McIntosh.[20]

Also in 1996, Brooker appeared in the Alan Parker film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita starring Madonna, Jonathan Pryce, and Antonio Banderas. Playing the part of Juan Atilio Bramuglia, he sang the song "Rainbow Tour" with Peter Polycarpou and Antonio Banderas. Brooker said that his greatest single earning in his career was from his appearance in the film.[6]

Brooker with Procol Harum in 2002

Brooker contributed to George Harrison's albums All Things Must Pass (1970), Somewhere in England (1981) and Gone Troppo (1982).[21] On 29 November 2002 he was among musicians and singers participating in the Harrison tribute concert, Concert for George, at which he sang lead vocals on their version of "Old Brown Shoe".[22] In April 2005, as part of the Gary Brooker Ensemble, he played a sold out charity concert at Guildford Cathedral in aid of the tsunami appeal, playing a mixture of Procol Harum and solo songs and arrangements of classical and spiritual songs. His guests and supporting artists included Andy Fairweather Low and Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann).[23]

On 28 October 2009, Brooker was presented with a BASCA in recognition of his unique contribution to music.[24] In 2011 he organised and performed in a concert at his home Wintershall, in Bramley, Surrey, in aid of the charity HASTE (Heart and Stroke Trust Endeavour). His guest musicians included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Andy Fairweather Low, Georgie Fame, and Lulu.[25][26]

In May 2012, Procol Harum were forced to cancel the remainder of their dates in South Africa after Brooker fractured his skull following a fall in his hotel room in Cape Town.[27] The fall came on Brooker's 67th birthday. The band was part of the British Invasion Tour of South Africa along with the Moody Blues and 10cc.[28] Brooker again fell injuring himself, during the interval of a Procol Harum concert at London's Royal Festival Hall in March 2017. Returning to the stage after a longer than expected interval, Brooker's head was bandaged and it was later discovered that he had broken a finger.[29] However, they continued touring until 2019, playing their final gig in Switzerland.[30]

Personal life and death[edit]

In July 1968, Brooker married Françoise Riedo ("Franky"), a Swiss au pair, whom he met circa 1965. The couple had no children.[31][6]

Brooker was a supporter of the Countryside Alliance and played in concerts to raise funds for the organization.[32] On 14 June 2003, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours, in recognition of his charitable services.[33]

Brooker died from cancer at his home in Surrey on 19 February 2022, at the age of 76.[34][35]

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" authorship lawsuit[edit]

In 2005, former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher filed suit in the High Court against Brooker and his publisher, claiming that he co-wrote the music for the song.[36] Fisher won the case on 20 December 2006 but was awarded 40% of the composers' share of the music copyright, rather than the 50% he was seeking and was not granted royalties for the period before 2005.[37]

Solo discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

  • 1979: No More Fear of Flying (AUS #94) [38]
  • 1982: Lead Me to the Water[39]
  • 1985: Echoes in the Night[40]

Live album[edit]

  • 1996: Within Our House[41]


  • 1979: "Savannah"[42]
  • 1979: "Say It Ain't So Joe"[42]
  • 1979: "No More Fear of Flying"[42]
  • 1980: "Leave The Candle"[42]
  • 1982: "Cycle (Let It Flow)"[42]
  • 1982: "Low Flying Birds"[43]
  • 1982: "The Angler"[44]
  • 1984: "The Long Goodbye"[42]
  • 1985: "Two Fools in Love"[42]
  • 1987: "No News from the Western Frontier" (single in the Netherlands, taken from Ad Visser's album Hi-Tec Heroes)[45]




  1. ^ "Gary Brooker, MBE". Procol Harum. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  2. ^ Frame 1999.
  3. ^ Scott-Irvine 2012, p. 3.
  4. ^ Johansen 2000, p. 13.
  5. ^ Johansen 2000, p. 14.
  6. ^ a b c Wright, John (24 January 2016). "Gary Brooker: 'Whiter Shade of Pale legal battle probably cost me £1m in fees alone'". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  7. ^ Johansen 2000, p. 20.
  8. ^ Johansen 2000, p. 18.
  9. ^ Greene, Andy (22 February 2022). "Procol Harum Frontman Gary Brooker Dead at 76". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  10. ^ Johansen 2000, p. 47.
  11. ^ "Gary Brooker: a keyboard-centric interview from 1978".
  12. ^ Pareles, Jon (23 February 2022). "Gary Brooker, Singer for Procol Harum, Dies at 76". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Broken Barricandes".
  14. ^ No More Fear of Flying – Gary Brooker | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 22 February 2022
  15. ^ Another Ticket – Eric Clapton | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 22 February 2022
  16. ^ Willman, Chris (22 February 2022). "Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, Singer and Co-Writer of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale,' Dies at 76". Variety. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  17. ^ "Ringo Starr And His All Starr Band". Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  18. ^ "". 25 January 1998. Archived from the original on 25 January 1998. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  19. ^ "Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  20. ^ Within Our House – Gary Brooker | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 22 February 2022
  21. ^ "Gary Brooker | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  22. ^ Kanis, Jon (December 2012). "I'll See You in My Dreams: Looking Back at the Concert for George". Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  23. ^ "Gary Brooker Ensemble, Guildford, 16 April 2005".
  24. ^ "36th Annual Gold Badge Awards". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Gary Brooker / Band du Lac / Wintershall 2011 / Heidi Widmer (5)".
  27. ^ "Rock legend Gary suffers 'very serious' head injury". Echo.
  28. ^ Williams, Murray (31 May 2012). "Rock star cracks skull in Cape Town". Daily News.
  29. ^ Sexton, Paul (4 March 2017). "Review: Gary Brooker Heroic As Procol Harum Triumph".
  30. ^ Savage, Mark (22 February 2022). "Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker dies at 76". BBC News. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  31. ^ "The 'blushing bride' gets a whiter shade of pale". Sunday Mirror. London. 14 July 1968. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Bryan Ferry to play Countryside Alliance Benefit Concert". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  33. ^ "No. 56963". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 14 June 2003. p. B15.
  34. ^ Greene, Andy (22 February 2022). "Procol Harum Frontman Gary Brooker Dead at 76 – Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  35. ^ Pareles, Jon (23 February 2022). "Gary Brooker, Singer for Procol Harum, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  36. ^ "A Whiter Shade of Pale authorship lawsuit". Retrieved 21 September 2006.
  37. ^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Organist wins Procol Harum battle.
  38. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 46. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  39. ^ "Lead Me to the Water – Gary Brooker" – via
  40. ^ "Echoes in the Night – Gary Brooker" – via
  41. ^ "Within Our House – Gary Brooker" – via
  42. ^ a b c d e f g Johansen 2000, p. 179.
  43. ^ "Low Flying Birds" – via
  44. ^ "The Angler" – via
  45. ^ "No News from the Western Frontier – Gary Brooker and Ad Visser". Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  46. ^ "What 'All THings Must Pass' songs did Gary Brooker contribute to?".
  47. ^ "Another Brooker / Hollies connection?".
  48. ^ "Juppanese – Mickey Jupp" – via
  49. ^ "Five Three One – Double Seven O Four – The Hollies" – via
  50. ^ "Another Ticket – Eric Clapton" – via
  51. ^ "Stereotomy – Alan Parsons, The Alan Parsons Project" – via
  52. ^ "The Red Shoes – Kate Bush" – via
  53. ^ "Driver's Eyes – Ian McDonald" – via
  54. ^ "Concert for George – Original Soundtrack" – via
  55. ^ "Aerial – Kate Bush" – via


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