Rick Sanders obituary

My friend Rick Sanders, who has died aged 76, was a talented journalist, musician, singer-songwriter and painter, who made his name as a rock writer in the late 1960s and early 70s. He then became a successful travel journalist, reviewed cookbooks for Homes & Gardens and A La Carte magazines, and went on to review African music for Folk Roots magazine for more than a decade, always with a passion for people above all and a dislike of convention and cant.

Rick started work as a copywriter for British Oxygen in 1967 before switching to music journalism, first on Intro magazine and then as assistant editor of Beat Instrumental. This was the swinging 60s (a phrase Rick hated) and Rick interviewed and wrote about major figures including Pink Floyd, Jim Morrison, Fairport Convention and Leonard Cohen; he also went on to edit the London pages of Rolling Stone magazine. Rick’s love of music, genuine interest in people and his sociability made him a great interviewer – qualities that also made him a great friend.

Rick was lead guitarist and a founder member of the poetry-music band the Occasional Word, whose album, The Year of the Great Leap Sideways, was released on John Peel’s Dandelion Records in 1969. He played on other releases on the label including Bridget St John’s first albums, and Mike Hart Bleeds. Peel described him as the best 12-string bottleneck guitarist he had ever heard.

Rick was born in Farnborough, Kent, to Marjorie (nee Atkins) and James Sanders. A wartime RAF officer, in the postwar years of Rick’s childhood his father worked as a sales rep for Bird’s custard. Rick was educated at Reed’s school in Surrey then at Manchester University, where he studied Spanish. While there he developed his strong sense of independence, his desire to travel and (above all) his guitar playing, and went on an influential trip to Ibiza in its heyday. He moved to London in 1967 with his partner, Deidre Heaton (AKA Dear Deirdre, agony aunt of the Sun and This Morning), whom he had met in 1966. Rick and Deidre married in 1969 and in 1971 spent a year hitch-hiking throughout South America.

In 1976 Rick published the first biography of Pink Floyd, translated into many languages. He played with the Scaffold, formed bands and performed solo gigs, notably at the Cambridge folk festival. His last record, Let It Go, was released in 2019.

By the mid-1980s, Rick had enjoyed success as a travel writer, including for the Sunday Times, before developing a new love, reviewing African music – he was a forerunner in his promotion of this genre of music, relatively unknown to many at the time.

Rick is survived by Deidre, their daughters, Susie and Phoebe, and two grandchildren.