‘Imaginative’ Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid dies aged 76

Lyricist Keith Reid who wrote the words of Procol Harum’s songs including A Whiter Shade Of Pale has died at the age of 76, the psychedelic rock band announced.

Reid, who also co-wrote singer John Farnham’s hit You’re The Voice, which reached number six in the UK charts in 1987, passed away “suddenly” on Thursday March 23 at a hospital in London, a statement said.

The band wrote on their website that Reid “had been receiving cancer treatment for the past couple of years”.

It comes after the death of Procol Harum frontman Gary Brooker – who had been receiving treatment for cancer – in February last year at the age of 76.

The singer, pianist and composer had led the band for more than five decades and during that time he helped write and was lead vocals on their 13 albums.

On Wednesday, the Procol Harum Facebook page stated: “We are sad to hear of the death of Keith Reid.

“An unparalleled lyricist, Keith wrote the words to virtually all Procol Harum songs … His lyrics were one of a kind and helped to shape the music created by the band.

Gary Brooker and Geoff Whitehorn of Procol Harum on stage at the Isle of Wight Festival (Yui Mok/PA)
Gary Brooker and Geoff Whitehorn of Procol Harum on stage at the Isle of Wight Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

“His imaginative, surreal and multi-layered words were a joy to Procol fans and their complexity by design was a powerful addition (to) the Procol Harum catalogue. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

The statement added: “‘Keith was (our) co-founder and lyricist … notably penning (the) biggest hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which contains some of the most enigmatic lyrics of all time.

“He always said that, at the end of his life, he would explain what it all meant: but sadly he didn’t get this opportunity.”

The song, which was a number one in the UK charts, won Britain’s international song of the year at the 1968 Ivor Novello awards and, at the first Brit awards in 1977, took home the best British pop single 1952–1977 gong for the hit along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Procol Harum also said: “A private funeral will be held, and this page will be updated soon with details for those who would like to make a donation in his memory.

“Keith will be greatly missed.”

Paying tribute, Andy Qunta – who also penned You’re The Voice with Reid, Maggie Ryder and Chris Thompson – wrote on Facebook he was “sorry to learn of the passing of my friend”.

He added: “It was a dream come true to be able to work with him on several songs … Keith was a lovely guy and a massive talent who will be very much missed.”

Born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, on October 19 1946, Reid also had his own solo career which included the album In My Head.