Vandaag viert Gary Brooker, de Engelse zanger en pianist, vooral bekend als componist van “A whiter shade of pale”, zijn 75ste verjaardag (foto Mzopw via Wikipedia).
Born in Hackney Hospital, East London, Brooker grew up in Hackney before the family moved out to Middlesex (Bush Hill Park and then to nearby Edmonton). 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.
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. When he left school, he went on to Southend Municipal College to study zoology and botany but dropped out to become a professional musician.
Brooker founded The Paramounts in 1962 with his guitarist friend Robin Trower. In 1966, Brooker decided to change the name to Procol Harum under the influence of his friend, lyricist Keith Reid. In July 1968 Brooker married Françoise Riedo (“Franky”), a Swiss au pair, whom he met circa 1965. The couple have no children.
In the early years Brooker, Hammond organist Matthew Fisher and Trower were also guiding musical forces behind the band, but after disparities in style became too much and Fisher and Trower left, Brooker was the clear leader until the band broke up in 1977. Brooker started a solo career and released the album No More Fear of Flying in 1979.
The same year, Brooker joined friend and neighbour Eric Clapton’s band. With Brooker in the lineup, they released the studio album Another Ticket. Clapton fired the entire band in 1981, but he and Brooker have remained good friends since, and were for many years neighbours in the Surrey Hills. Brooker has joined Clapton for several one-off benefit gigs over the years.
A new incarnation of Procol Harum, led by Brooker, has 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, 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.
In 1996, Brooker appeared in the Alan Parker film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webbers‘ 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.
On 29 November 2002, he was among musicians and singers participating in the George Harrison tribute concert, Concert for George, at which he sang lead vocals on their version of “Old Brown Shoe“. Brooker contributed to Harrison’s albums All Things Must Pass, Gone Troppo and Somewhere in England.
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. 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. He recovered sufficiently for the band to undertake an extensive US tour with Yes and to play concerts in Europe in 2013, several with symphony orchestras. [Wikipedia]