Only weeks after learning the Moody Blues would finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, co-founding member and flutist Ray Thomas died from complications from prostate cancer on January 4th at age 76. Vintage Vinyl News reported Thomas launched his career as a saxophonist with such early bands as El Riot & The Rebels, which included future Moodies members bassist John Lodge and keyboardist Mike Pinder. Eventually Thomas and Pinder were joined by guitarist Denny Laine, bassist Clint Warwick, and drummer Graeme Edge to form the Moody Blues in 1964. Thomas was an active member of the band until his 2002 retirement.
With the eventual addition of guitarist Justin Hayward and John Lodge, Thomas became a songwriting force for the band, contributing such timeless fan favorite works over the years as “Another Morning, “Twilight Time,” “Legend Of A Mind”, “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume,” “Dear Diary,” “Are You Sitting Comfortably?,” and “For My Lady.”
Ultimate Classic Rock quoted Thomas’ 2015 explanation for his retirement: “I can’t really perform anymore; I’ve got this balance problem and it’s called cerebellar ataxia and it’s like a short circuit in the brain. If I lose my balance, by the time my brain tells me that I’ve lost my balance, I could be on the floor. The signal has to travel a longer route to the place where it says you’re going to fall over. So, it’s really very debilitating. It’s incurable, so I just live with it.”
Ray Thomas’ record label Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records, said in a prepared statement: “We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humor 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.”
Lifelong friend and bandmate John Lodge tweeted a salute to Ray Thomas, which reads:
Ray and I have been on this magical journey through life together since we were 14…two young kids from Birmingham who reached for the stars…and we made it together. El Riot you will always be by my side – John Lodge (@JohnLodgeMusic) January 7, 2018
John Lodge recently recalled to us the kinship he and Ray Thomas shared — which was celebrated on the final studio track the pair teamed up on back in 2015: “Ray and I, of course, we’ve been friends forever. I met Ray when I was 14 and we formed a band together called El Riot & The Rebels and Ray’s still a very close friend of mine; he lives a mile away from where I live in England and we see each other regularly. And, when I was making my album,10,000 Light Years Ago, I wrote a song called, ‘Simply Magic,’ and when I was making the demo, I thought, ‘This is perfect for Ray to play flute.’ And if the Moody Blues were recording, Ray would’ve played the flute. So, I rang him up, I said, ‘Ray, I’ve written this song, will ya come and play flute?’ He said, ‘Of course.’ So, I went ’round, and I played him the song. Then we went into the studio and recorded it.”
Photo Courtesy of Theshold