9 February 2022:
He smiled at all kinds of reminiscences from backstage on tour, and from BtP's Procol conventions; he requested his favourite autographing-Sharpies to lie by his bedside, in case he needed to write anything down. He made a comic and affectionate remark about the large physical presence of Jens Anders Ravnaas in any audience; and on recalling Stefano Ciccioriccio (a lifelong AS Roma follower) he joked, ever-waywardly, 'He's the Napoli supporter, no?' Gary was still able to entertain with a mysteriously erudite pun ('Those bruises on your hands ... is that where the hospital put cannulas in?' / 'No, they're just knocks.' / 'What sort of knocks?' / 'Just ordinary knocks, not from beating up the Pope' [readers may recall John Knox, the Sixteenth-century reformer largely responsible for the overthrow of Roman Catholicism in Scotland]).
I left Gary with a new, dedicated CD album sent by Ronnie D'Addario, which he received with considerable enthusiasm; and also offered heartfelt thanks for his lifetime's work – Paramounts, Procol, and so much more – on behalf of fans around the world ... which he acknowledged (or perhaps deflected) with characteristic wry humility, as if he'd accomplished nothing of particular merit or note; I was moved by his courage and composure.
As we shook hands – both hands – I felt quite sure we should never meet again, and, ten days later, he was gone. Franky asked me to prepare a quick 'official' obituary for 'Beyond the Pale' and for the world's press, which may be read here. She has set up a special Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice charity page in GB's memory. Please, fellow fans, leave your tribute, message and donation by clicking here.
Towards the end of the summer just past GB had a first course of chemotherapy to reduce a tumour, in preparation for having it surgically removed. That initial therapy was successful, but there’s since been some ongoing trouble with the 'motorway slip-road into the guts' that 'Gary Two-Stents' refers to below in his 27 May bulletin.
The ensuing gastric discomfort has reduced his appetite so that – as well as awaiting a satisfactory resolution of the 'slip-road' predicament – he’ll be obliged to regain some lost weight before he can be judged fit to face the planned second round of chemo. Hence the uncertainty about when his surgical treatment will be safely able to start, and the impossibility of planning gigs.
Our very best wishes go out to Franky, along with thanks for sharing this information.
21 November 2021: Procol's manager advises
'Beyond the Pale' that the band's projected shows in Trondheim and Greve
(Norway and Denmark) have been added to the list of concerts that
cannot now take place. The German Tour dates, temporarily marked
'postponed', are now -- sad to say -- cancelled.
(photo by Franky Brooker)
9 November 2021: Procol's manager, Barry Sinclair, advises 'Beyond the Pale' that the band's projected concerts in London, Germany, Austria and Switzerland are regrettably, and regretfully, cancelled. Gary Brooker MBE is still waiting for the procedure that we all hope will alleviate his present medical condition, and which will require a significant period of enforced rest and recuperation. In light of this delay, forward planning is very problematic, and it's judged better not to keep fans guessing, but to pull out of the London Palladium gig and the following European tour. As ever, any ensuing changes will be announced through the pages of 'Beyond the Pale'.
Low-Flying Bird news: the photograph below was kindly sent to BtP by Franky Brooker, who relates how, towards the end of October, '... this nuthatch flew into the window and was stunned. Gary pick it up, and after a while we put it on my finger, to fly away. But instead he flew on to Gary’s waistcoat and stayed there for a while. Eventually he [the nuthatch (Ed.)] did fly off, which made us happy.'
Gary's fans will doubtless also be interested in this article, which contains an absorbing phylogenetic diagram from 2020 (based on work by Martin Päckert and others), packed with essential insight for admirers of this agreeable little passerine. Among other choice snippets it reminds us that 'the English term nuthatch refers to the propensity of some species to wedge a large insect or seed in a crack and hack at it with their strong bills'.
BtP paid a pleasant visit to the Brooker residence on 17 September and found Gary in characteristic good spirits as he awaits the next stage of some ongoing treatment. He's pictured (below, twice) in his garden, signing Procol rarities, which he's kindly made available, from his own collection, to be offered to fans and collectors – and prize-winners in the BtP Christmas Conundrums – in weeks to come. Eagle-eyed readers will be able to determine what that white-label test pressing album is; and people who've read 'Beyond the Pale' thoroughly will recognise the Extremely Desirable boxed multimedia set, even though almost all its front cover is obscured by the handwritten text.
7 August 2021: Gary
Brooker writes to 'Beyond the Pale' ...
I am dressed for
the soccer match that evening as a loyal follower of the
Iceni, but joined
the rest of the land in a very sad end to the day. The guitar was
the saving grace!"
Gary Brooker was recuperating on 29 May, not to be disturbed. The following morning BtP asked him how it had been, spending his birthday in hospital.
‘I’ve never not had a good birthday, until now. All in all it’s a bit of a strange time, spending it like this. After all I’ve had accidents, but I’ve never been unwell before, with two surgeons battling in my insides to fit stents before I came round. I wasn’t supposed to have visitors but I told them it was my birthday – and I had a new record out – so they did allow Franky to come in.’
And how had he been spending the time?
‘I’ve been reading a bit. Television is just terrible, even with the sound off. A choice of idiocy and … more idiocy. I mostly spend the time looking forward to being home, eating through my mouth again. I lost my sense of taste in South Africa, but I can still look forward to something with texture, a bit crunchy.’
We related to Gary all the good wishes sent in by ‘Beyond the Pale’ readers. He appreciated ‘all the good vibes coming in across the waves’. We also mentioned that various fans had posted greetings for him on Facebook, perhaps not realising they wouldn’t reach him. ‘Please say I would enjoy them if I saw them,’ he said.
Fans will be heartened to learn, even from so brief a conversation, that the fighting spirit and sense of humour have not deserted The Commander.
Procol Harum fans will be delighted to learn that Gary Brooker – whose indisposition was announced at ‘Beyond the Pale’ on 3 May 2021 – continues to do well.
In a phone call this morning (27 May) BtP
learns that a stent procedure has gone to plan, allowing him to eat in the
normal way (‘it’s like a motorway slip-road into the guts’), and that a
touch of jaundice has been averted thanks to a bile-duct intervention.
Gary's in excellent spirits, looking forward to returning home in a few
days’ time. [In a follow-up e-mail he asserts that 'I am the Missing
Person' (in the manner of ‘I am Spartacus’), and signs off as
Buy Procol's 2021 EP by clicking this link | Gary Brooker's page at BtP | The 'official' obituary | Make your charity donation here in Gary Brooker's memory