Obituary

Tonight I received news that one of the great figures of English rock has died. Kevin Ayers, aged 68, was the founding member of the Soft Machine, a band that inspired a generation of young musicians and singer-songwriters alike. I had most of Kevin’s vinyl records, they didn’t gather dust.

Many moons ago I formed a 3 piece band called Whatever She Brings We Sing, after the name of his early 70’s ground-breaking album. It was a tribute band to Kevin’s song-writing, and a few compositions of my own pen bundled in for good measure. All the time I felt his hand in my guitar playing, in performing, his genuine affection and respect for Blues music and a rather unique whimsical sense of humour.
His unique voice also captured a whiskey throated, gravely soul that projected pure love.

Sadly Kevin dwindled in the eighties and nineties due to the effect of drugs. He emerged with Falling Up (1987) that featured one time collaborator Mike Oldfield. Then in a few years later he returned with Still Life With Guitar (1991), a collaboration with Eddi Reader and Fairground Attraction. His last album The Unfairground (2007) was in my view one of his greatest recordings, the songs were simple, and peppered with the wisdom of his years.

I will never forget the last gig I saw him play, a wonderfully intimate set in the cellars at the Jazz and Roots Club in Shrewsbury 2003. He was on great form, having conquered a long standing addiction to heroin and alcohol. There was a moment in the concert where he slow everything down, to deliver a sublime version of Lady Rachel. The moment sent the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. It was his on-stage electricity, his unshakeable charisma, timing and belief in song.

I caught up with kevin briefly after the gig as he climbed into his touring camper van. I asked why he didn’t play much in the UK anymore? He still had a strong following here in England. He just smiled and said he was now living in southern France, he liked the pace of life there, it suited his Chi, as he put it. He was performing still, in Belguim with a Jazz outfit. He suggested I must go and see the scene there. I nodded that one day I would. We talked a little about his memories of Hendrix, and like him he didn’t follow the rules. We shook hands before he disappeared into the night. It was an emotionally ride home that night. I didn’t want it to end.

It’s emotional now, but in a different way. It feels like I’ve lost a friend. His songs filled my heart, in the good times and bad. They carried me across the turbulent waters of life. They rested my mind safely on the other side. He was a maestro, a mentor, a pacifist and a true gentleman. Wherever Kevin is now, I will keep the faith he imbibed in me. His music hasn’t died. It never will.

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18 Replies to “Obituary”

  1. Thanks, Kevin was a remarkable man, he was a renaissance man who often wrestled against authority, normality and felt passionately against war, rather like me.

  2. I read on another blog today about the power of a song that resonates and as I drove home from a friends a CD playing over and over kept me company and took me gently back to a special place in my heart.

  3. I can relate to that. We all have songs that takes us somewhere special. Labi Siffre wrote the wonderful song – It Must Be Love. It a song that always leads me on a carefree dance. Even the simple guitar intro parts the clouds and brightens my day. How does music do that?

  4. a lovely lovely song and it is the first time I have seen the name of the original (is it ?) singer in writing….even that is a little bit special!

    it is a name and a song that take me back to another time…perhaps that is it in part at least
    I love a song that simply lights up the day…

  5. That’s a heartfelt eulogy. Again, you made the man come alive… and you had a band…? Now, isn’t that nice…?! Music is food of the gods.

    Stay well, in peace.

  6. Many blessing to you and thank you! I still can’t believe kevin’s gone, I think I had possibly immortalised him, which doesn’t help. Music is a spiritual thing … its more than a song. Hard to express in words.

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