Gary Brooker from Procol Harum is dead – Dagsavisen

– People are totally obsessed with “A White Shade Of Pale”. But many thought we disappeared after that, Gary Brooker sighed as soon as we spoke to him. The group continued to release great records, full of great songs sung in Broker’s soulful voice, but this first success outweighed anything they’d done over the years. Then it’s a good song too.

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” is widely recognized as one of the most enduring songs of all time. A song that somehow hovers above all of pop history, and that gives everyone who remembers so far an instant feeling of returning to the “summer of love”. The song has become a symbol of both today, the whole spirit of the times.

“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” peaked in England for six weeks in the summer of 1967. Not just any week either. First and foremost, “Waterloo Sunset” with The Kinks downgraded from first place, but it’s also summer for pop magic like “Paper Sun” with Traffic, “See Emily Play” with Pink Floyd, “The Wind Cries Mary” with Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Alternate Title” with The Monkees and “Groovin'” with The Young Rascals, all of which were overshadowed by Procol Harum. Simultaneous release only «Sgt. Pepper’s album with The Beatles was as sensational as Procol Harum.

The first “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” is an excellent introduction to Matthew Fisher’s hammond organ, which was heavily inspired by several compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. Subsequent songs include “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge. Gary Brooker often sounds like a true soul singer. The organ becomes a kind of cheers in the chorus, and raises the song several levels.

Procol Harum had a band member who didn’t play at all, but wrote only the lyrics: Keith Reid. “One of the foremost experts on beautiful and meaningless texts”, quotes Ragnar Hovland in “Dr. Munk’s pop lexicon », with a concrete reference to this with «one of the sixteen vestal virgins / who is going to the beach ». – Songs can be about what you want. It’s a series of abstract images that you shouldn’t think about too much, Gary Brooker once said when we spoke to him.

“Organs, on the other hand, are not to be misunderstood, but enigmatic and majestic,” writes Lars Saabye Christensen in the book “Best songs”, in which Norwegian writers tell about their favorite songs. In the pop lexicon Dr. Munk, Ragnar Hovland recounts his first encounter with the single, when a classmate took him to school: “Immediately silenced in class. And I feel that it’s a song that’s always been there.”

Only three members of Procol Harum participated in the recording of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Gary Brooker, vocals and piano, Matthew Fisher, organ and David Knights, bass. Not that the ensemble was actually incompetent, the guitarist in the band was Robin Trower, who went on to become one of the great guitar heroes of ’70s England. By the way, he will be releasing a new album this spring. But the chemistry between Brooker and Fisher is the sound of Procol Harum, an organ/piano combination like never before or since.

After all these years, Matthew Fisher decided to promote his claim to be recognized as a co-composer, as the intro was such an important part of the finished work. This went badly for Gary Brooker, and Fisher left the group. After going through three trials, he was awarded his share of the future composer’s earnings in 2006, but not with retroactive effect.

The most remarkable thing about Procol Harum’s saga is that they followed up this legendary candidate for best song of all time with an even better one: “Homburg” came out in the fall of 1967, not reaching its peak. graphic, but indescribably beautiful with a melancholy, sad tone, again with somewhat unexpected text, a chorus of dirty trouser folds, poorly laced shoes and an overly long coat.

Procol Harum and Gary Brooker might not have really been hurt by making the great “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” back in 1967, but the medal has a flip side. Despite a number of great singles and albums that have followed, it can be difficult to convince people that they have more to offer than this one song. The group’s first album didn’t contain “A Whiter Shade of Pale” or “Homburg”, but it was more than adequate. It was the first in a string of fine albums, on which 1969’s “A Salty Dog” could become a masterpiece.

Procol Harum were also early performers in full symphonies, when they released “In Concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra” in 1972, and really got a new hit with the fully orchestrated “Conquistador”. In 1974 came one of the best moments of the group, with the album “Birds and Exotic Fruits”, where especially page 1 was a parade of good songs. Gary Brooker has told us that “Beyond The Pale” here was inspired by the fjords and mountains during a small tour of Norway in the early 70s. The following year, “Procols 9th” was produced by legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Procol Harum has always been more soul and rock’n’roll than progressive rock.

Procol Harum has inspired more than you think. Eldar Vågan has composed the song “A millimeter pointed gramophone pin” about the first time he bought a record and a gramophone, in 1973. The album that “turned everything upside down in my arms” was “Grand Hotel” with Procol Harum. Vågan’s song begins with a few notes from the powerful intro to “Fires”, and continues to show inspiration for three minutes. The tape is on the shelf with faded cover and worn curves, Vågan sings. There may be more to the old Fragrant Procol records than many think. In “Every time we meet” it is this song that Kleveland has chosen from Eldar Vågan’s huge repertoire.

Gary Brooker was also a member of the star-studded crew of Ringo Starr’s All Star Band and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, but kept Procol Harum going. Most recently in 2017, they released a new album «Novum». It features the group in a familiar style, although the lyrics were not written for the first time by Keith Reid, but humorously enough by Pete Brown, who filled the same role as poet in 1967’s Cream.

Procol Harum continued to do concerts into 2019. They should continue to perform “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, as Gary Brooker assured before one of their visits to Norway a few years ago: – It’s really fun to do. Because the text is so good, I find something new in it all the time, he said. He often performs great classics with additional verse. – Once we were playing somewhere in Scotland, a man was standing there shouting that song all night long. When we finally did, he roared PLAY AGAIN. I thought I gave him a few beats, just for fun.

Sophie Wilkinson

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