Gary Brooker, R.I.P.


Gary Brooker of Procol Harum has died, according to an obituary on the band's website. Ugh. He had one of the great, soulful voices in rock and also wrote awesome songs that went way beyond "A Whiter Shade of Pale."


A quick story...


A version of Procol Harum, reuniting Brooker with organist Matthew Fisher (who later would successfully sue for a songwriting credit on "Whiter Shade," pissing off Brooker), was playing the Vic in 1991. It was a seated show, and I was reviewing it for the Tribune.


As I waited for it to begin, someone who looked familiar walked past me to get to his seat.


"Excuse me," I said to him. "Are you Joe Strummer?"


"I am," he said with a smile. He would be fronting the Pogues at the Riv the next night.


"I wouldn't have pegged you as a Procol Harum fan," I said.


"Oh, me and the boys used to see them all the time in London. Great band. Fantastic voice."


Sure enough, what elevated that 1991 show was Gary Brooker singing the hell out of "A Salty Dog," "The Devil Came from Kansas" and other songs.


Afterward, as Strummer passed me on the way out, I asked him what he thought.


"What! A! Voice!" Strummer exclaimed and gave a big thumbs-up.


Can't argue with Joe Strummer.


In 2019 at City Winery, I sat with another big Procol/Brooker fan who emerged from the British punk scene, Jon Langford, as we enjoyed Brooker fronting a different Procol Harum lineup. The other musicians didn't matter. At age 73 Brooker still could raise the roof.


Gary Brooker R.I.P.


Here's my 2010 Tribune interview with Gary Brooker.


And here he is looking fabulous and singing the hell out of "A Salty Dog":



2 comments