Gilli Smyth

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Gilli Smyth
Smyth performing with Gong in Tel Aviv, 2009
Smyth performing with Gong in Tel Aviv, 2009
Background information
Birth nameGillian Mary Smyth
Born(1933-06-01)1 June 1933[citation needed]
London, England
Died22 August 2016(2016-08-22) (aged 83)
Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
  • Poet
  • musician
  • writer

Gillian Mary Smyth[2] (1 June 1933 – 22 August 2016) was an English musician who performed with the bands Gong, Mother Gong, and Planet Gong and released several solo albums and albums in collaboration with other members of Gong.[3] In Gong, she often performed under the name Shakti Yoni, contributing poems and "space whispers".[4]


Smyth was born in London.[4] She studied at King's College London,[citation needed] (the liner notes for Voiceprint's 'Mother Gong' CD suggests 'London University') where she gained notoriety as the outspoken sub-editor of "Kings News", a college magazine. After a brief spell teaching at the Sorbonne (Paris) (where she became bilingual), she began doing performance poetry with well-known English jazz-rock group Soft Machine, founded by her partner and long-time collaborator, Daevid Allen, in 1968.[4]

Gilli Smyth with Daevid Allen, Hyde Park, 1974

She co-founded Gong with Allen, an outfit that included musicians such as Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe. All of the songs on the albums Magick Brother and Continental Circus are listed as written or co-written by her. In her spoken-word poetry, especially within Gong's "Radio Gnome Invisible" Trilogy, she portrays a prostitute, a cat, a mother, a witch, and an old woman, and she was known for wearing costumes for these personas on stage.[4] This became part of a cult mythology, which was written into sixteen albums that the band recorded. Gong developed into a family of bands, including Gongmaison and Mother Gong. Mother, Smyth's 1978 solo album, led to her founding Mother Gong, having left the original band in 1975 to have children.[citation needed]

Mother Gong toured internationally in 1979-81 and 1989–91, either headlining or supporting such artists as Bob Dylan and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Smyth appeared as a solo performer and lecturer at the Starwood Festival from 1992-93. She did voice-overs for commercials, recorded audio books for children, as well as other books and poetry, gave workshops on voice projection and voice as a confidence-raiser, and also performed for many women's groups.[citation needed]


She died in hospital in Byron Bay on 22 August 2016 at the age of 83 of pulmonary pneumonia.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Gilli Smyth: Mother – Album Review". Louder Than War. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  2. ^ "BMI - Repertoire Search". Retrieved 23 August 2016.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Gilli Smyth". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "Gilli Smyth in the Gong Family Maze". Planet Gong. Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Gong co-founder Gilli Smyth dies, aged 83". The Guardian. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Gilli Smyth, 'Space Whisperer' – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 29 August 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.

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