Ray Thomas dead: Moody Blues founding member dies, aged 76

Ray Thomas performs with the Moody Blues: Reuters
Ray Thomas performs with the Moody Blues: Reuters

Ray Thomas, a founding member of The Moody Blues, has died at the age of 76.

The flautist and vocalist died suddenly on Thursday, his record label confirmed, months before his band were due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“It is with profound sorrow and sadness that Cherry Red Records and Esoteric Recordings regret to announce that Ray Thomas, founder member, flautist and vocalist of The Moody Blues, passed away suddenly at his home in Surrey on Thursday 4th January 2018,” said the label in a statement.

“We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humour and kindness. It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife Lee at this sad time.”

No cause of death was given.

In 2014, Thomas revealed on his website that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Born in Stourport-on-Severn on 29 December 1941, Thomas started out in Birmingham blues and soul groups in the 1960s and later formed The Moody Blues alongside Mike Pinder, Denny Laine, Graeme Edge and Clint Warwick.

The rock band’s hits include "Go Now", "Nights In White Satin" and "Question".

The band’s roots lay in blues and R&B, but their 1964 number one hit "Go Now" was a foretaste of the lush, orchestral sound that came to be called progressive rock. The Moody Blues’ 1967 album Days of Future Passed is a prog-rock landmark, while Thomas’s flute solo on the single "Nights in White Satin" one of the genre’s defining moments.

The multi-instrumentalist wrote several songs for the band, including the trippy "Legend of a Mind" and "Veteran Cosmic Rocker".

Thomas released two solo albums after the band broke up in 1974. The Moody Blues later reformed, and Thomas remained a member before leaving around the turn of the millennium due to poor health.

The band is due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in April.