Gary Brooker, singer of Procol Harum, dies at 76


Mr. Brooker dropped out of college to work full-time as a musician, and in the late 1950s began playing in the band Paramounts, which performed much of American R&B songs. By the time the Paramounts broke up in 1966, they had shared bills with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles; later he would play studio sessions and gigs with the old Beatles.

Mr. Brooker then started a new band, the Pinewoods, which included Mr. Fisher, to play the songs he had started writing with Mr. Reid. The Pinewoods were soon renamed Procol Harum, fractured Latin for “beyond these things”. The new band’s combination of piano and organ was rare in British rock, although American gospel bands used it, as did rock band The Band. Mr Brooker described his initial idea for the new band as “a bit of classic, a bit of Bob Dylan, a bit of Ray Charles”.

Procol Harum’s first recording session, in collaboration with session musicians, resulted in “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. When it became a hit, guitarist Robin Trower and drummer BJ Wilson, who had been in the Paramounts, joined Procol Harum to record his 1967 debut album, titled simply “Procol Harum”. His structural ambitions were expanded on his 1968 album, “Shine On Brightly”, which included the five-part, 18-minute suite “In Held ‘Twas in I.”

Mr. Brooker married Françoise Riedo in 1968. She survives him.

The title track from Procol Harum’s 1969 album, “A salty dogfeatured a dramatic orchestral arrangement by Mr. Brooker, and the band soon began performing with orchestras. His 1971 album, “Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra”, gave him American success with an expansive remake of “Conquistador” from Procol Harum’s debut album.

By then, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Trower had left the group, and Mr. Brooker was the undisputed leader of the group. His 1973 album, “Great hotel,” reveled in orchestration; her 1974 release, “Exotic Birds and Fruit”, flatly rejected her. Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller produced “Procol’s Ninth” in 1975.


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