By Marie DeFreitas
British singer and songwriter Neil Innes unexpectedly pass away on Sunday. He was 75 years old.
According to Variety, a spokesman for the family told the BBC that Innes had not been suffering from any illness. He had been travelling home from France with his family.
Innes was known for his work with ‘Monty Python,’ the Rutles and the madcap ‘60s outfit the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The Bonzos 1968 single “I’m the Urban Spaceman” was produced by Paul McCartney under a pseudonym. Innes came into many projects with the British comedy group ‘Monty Python.’ This included the lead minstrel in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ Here he was known for singing “Brave Sir Robin.”
Innes wrote songs and appeared in several episodes of Python’s last season in 1974, as well as the group’s later films ‘Life of Brian,’ and ‘Jabberwocky.’
He also starred in the Beatles spoof documentary “All You Need Is Cash.” Here he was the main songwriter and played the John Lennon character Ron Nasty.
A statement from Innes’ family published in Variety read: “It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29 December 2019.”
It goes on, “We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all. He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain. His wife Yvonne and their three sons, Miles, Luke and Barney, and three grandchildren, Max, Issy and Zac, give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.”
The comic songwriter was born in Danbury, Essex in 1944 and raised in Germany. He learned several instruments as a kid and later graduated from Goldsmiths University in 1966. That year Innes also joined the Bonzos. He was the group’s musical director and carried almost all of their song with frontman Vivian Stanshall. Bonzos released four albums between the years 1967 and 1972. Their songs ignited the concept for the name of American rock magazine Trouser Press, and the band Death Cab for Cutie.
According to BBC, Innes was given a writing credit in the 1990s on the Oasis track “Whatever.” Noel Gallagher had allegedly borrowed portions of his song “How Sweet To Be An Idiot”.
According to The Seattle Times, friends and colleagues posted tributes to Innes on Twitter. Fellow Python member John Cleese tweeted he was “utterly dismayed” to hear of Innes’s death. He called him “a very sweet man, much too nice for his own good.” The prominent British actor Mark Gatiss, fondly wrote “Sweet dreams, sweet idiot.”