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Remembering Gary Brooker MBE 1945 – 2022

Procol Harum organist and friend Josh Phillips reflects on the life and legacy of Gary Brooker.

Gary Brooker was a longstanding member of The Ivors Academy and an Ivor winner. In 2009 we had the honour of presenting Gary with a Gold Badge Award for his immense contribution to songwriting. Here, fellow band mate, composer, and friend Josh Phillips pays tribute to the legendary Procol Harum lead singer-songwriter.

I first saw Gary when I was quite a lot younger than I am now, little did I know I would wind up being the organist in Procol Harum in the early 90s.

The concert was the Rainbow London, with full Orch and Choir. I came out of the show and decided, yep thats for me, wind forward 20+ years and there I was, playing my first gig with Procol, TOTALLY unplanned I promise.

I first met Gary in a studio in Surrey in 1991, he was laying some vocals and piano down on Prodigal Stranger, the comeback album after the break up in the late 70s. We went for a beer together, chatted and hit it off pretty instantly.

Over the first couple of years we would get together socially and occasionally for charity gigs etc, and in about 1993 I did a handful of shows with PH, then again in 1995.

It was in 2004 that the organist chair became permanently available and Gary asked me if I would like to take the seat, it didn’t take much to twist my arm.

Gary was an extraordinary person, he was an amazing singer, I would say one of the best Rock Soul Blues singers to grace this planet, a wonderful piano player too. His writing speaks for itself, he never really followed fashion, he didn’t need to, his style was unique, flirting with Bach and signing the Blues, what a combination.

His ability to blend his writing so beautifully with orchestra and choir says a lot about his talent, they fit like a glove, which is unique.

Gary and I wrote the initial ideas for the last Procol Harum album in my studio, titled Novum.

We would sit together playing keyboards and trying ideas, and Gary would always come at the song from a non conventional angle, I guess that’s what made him different.

We have travelled all over the world together as a band, onstage he was a legend, his voice coming out of the monitors, full rich and always in tune, what more can you ask.

I will greatly miss Gary as a close friend, as a comedian, a great companion, a huge influence on me, and above all a genuine man.

He was a loyal husband and loved his wife Franky dearly.

Shine on brightly Gary 🎹❤️


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