Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Christopher John Cooke



We’re very sorry indeed to have to report the death, following a long illness, of Chris Cooke (29 March 1945 – 1 June 2021). As Procol Harum’s manager, Chris steered the band through a late-blossoming period that included The Well’s on Fire and Novum, download-only live albums, concert DVDs and numerous high-profile concerts and tours at home, all over Europe, North America and in Japan. He was also a prime mover behind the profusion of album reissues and boxed sets that saw the band’s illustrious catalogue stylishly collated, both for established completists and for fresh converts of all ages.

Like many Southenders of his generation, Chris was an intriguing and unusual character. He was a creative thinker and problem-solver, and an excellent communicator person-to-person (though his written memos verged occasionally on the impenetrable). His gold records were ignominiously exhibited in the downstairs loo. Long experience in the music industry (roadie, label-owner, producer, tour manager) – coupled with irreverent humour and fair-minded humanity – were the bedrock of his managerial prowess. He certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly, but was skilled at maintaining and motivating a team; he led by example in terms of energy and commitment.

Chris’s interests and passions outside music were many and various, from bird-watching through husky-sledding to Egyptology. Despite a fascination with the past, he was forward-thinking and imaginative, and an early adopter of new technology. This ran parallel to an enduring fascination with engineering (he’d had a spell in the world of motor-racing). And despite his down-to-earth approach to everyday problems, he fortified himself against cancer by fastidious eating and the guidance of ‘alternative’ healers.

Wittingly or not, Procol fans owe him a great deal; he was a fan and enthusiast himself, and his long collaboration with ‘Beyond the Pale’ reflected a kindly understanding of the special rapport that distinguishes a great band’s adherents. He handled his long, slow illness with indomitable determination, and it took two major strokes – while motorcycling in Cuba – to quench the exuberance of (his own words) ‘a lifelong teenager’.

The BtP team would like, on behalf of fans worldwide, to extend our sympathy to Chris’s family and friends, and of course his professional associates. What a privilege to have worked with – and learnt from – such a true original.

Chris in his own words | Stroke bulletins

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