Procol Harum’s lyricist Keith Reid passes away at 76


lyricist keith

Keith Reid, a founding member of Procol Harum and co-author of the enigmatic lyrics to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice,” has passed away. Brooker and Reid were one of Rock’s great songwriting teams in the mode of Lennon/ McCartney and Elton John/ Bernie Taupin as Gary Brooker set Reid’s lyrics to music. Keep reading this post to learn more details about his passing and Keith Reid’s life journey.

KEITH REID: The Genius Lyricist of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” Dies

“You’re The Voice”Procol Harum Co-Writer Keith Reid passed away at the age of 76. The iconic “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum is Reid’s best-known song.

Keith wrote all the lyrics, and Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher used a Bach tune for the song’s music. He passed away a year after Gary Brooker, his buddy and the composer of the song’s music. Keith Reid’s cause of death has not been disclosed.

The second single by Procol Harum, “Homburg,” which once again featured lyrics by Reid, peaked at number six in the UK, number five in Australia, and number 34 in the US.  With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Procol Harum had a smash with “Conquistador” in Australia in 1972.

Together with Chris Thompson, Andy Qunta, and Maggie Ryder, Keith Reid contributed to the writing of the John Farnham classic “You’re The Voice.” In My Mind, Keith’s most recent album was published in 2018.

Keith’s friend and collaborator Jon Tiven posted:

“ RIP Keith Reid. When it came to writing lyrics for songs, he was a unique brilliance. When it came to being a friend, he couldn’t ask for a better one. When it came to collaborating, it brought me lyrics that became one of my biggest songs if not my biggest. Shine On Brightly, genius.”

Who was Keith Reid?

Keith Reid was born in London on October 19, 1946. He stopped attending school when he was 15 and began writing lyrics, many of which included Bob Dylan.

Jewish Reid was brought up in London. His father made it through the Holocaust. He left school when he was young to concentrate on being a songwriter.

In 1966, he met lead singer Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, with whom he worked on the majority of the band’s tunes (some music was composed by organist Matthew Fisher and guitarist Robin Trower). In 1967, Procol Harum’s debut song, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” was made available.

Almost six million copies of it were sold worldwide, with the UK Singles Chart reaching its highest peak at number one. Keith Reid was an official member of Procol Harum, even though he did not play any instruments, and he attended all of their recording sessions as well as the majority of their live concerts.

Reid continued to write lyrics for the band until its dissolution in 1977. Reid claims that the sad tone of his lyrics is a result of his ancestor’s participation in the Holocaust.

Keith Reid Biography

 by Jason Ankeny

Keith Reid, a lyricist who collaborated with vocalist/composer Gary Brooker to write all of the group’s songs, was a key contributor to the long-term success of art rock pioneers Procol Harum even though he neither sang nor played an instrument. 

He was born on October 19, 1946, in London. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and started penning lyrics, largely invoking Bob Dylan. 

Reid met R&B king Guy Stevens through Island Records CEO Chris Blackwell, who in turn connected him to budding composer Brooker in 1966.

With the Procol Harum lineup in place, the first recorded “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which paired Reid’s surreal lyrics with a Brooker melody adapted from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D Major. The two started working together and after compiling several songs, set about assembling a band to record their material.

Midway through 1967, the song spent six weeks atop the U.K. charts and went on to sell over six million copies worldwide. For his contributions, Reid was given official membership in the group, and he and Brooker collaborated on all of Procol Harum’s songs up until the band’s dissolution in 1977.

When Brooker contacted Reid three years later to consider rejoining Procol Harum, Reid established his own management company, Full House, began working on a play, and moved to Manhattan. The group’s comeback album, The Prodigal Stranger, was released in 1991.

“Whiter Shade of pale”

The album’s title track is the first and most well-known smash single by the pioneering progressive rock band Procol Harum. One of the songs of the Summer of Love, the song was written in 1967 before it began.

Procol Harum was given its name after a Burmese cat owned by a manager-friend of the band. In (misspelled) Roman, it is thought to mean “Beyond these remote objects.”

Keith Reid, who wrote the lyrics, said about the song (from song facts):

It’s sort of a film trying to conjure up a mood and tell a story. It’s about a relationship. There are characters and there’s a location, and there’s a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly, there’s a journey going on, it’s not a collection of lines just stuck together.

It’s got a thread running through it….I feel with songs that you’re given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration, or whatever. In this case, I had that title, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale,’ and I thought, There’s a song here. And it’s making up the puzzle that fits the piece you’ve got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into.

Read some Tributes posted on social media for Keith Reid:

Patrick Humphries wrote,

While the world mourns Paul O’Grady, I was sorry to hear of the death of Keith Reid. As a lyricist for Procol Harum his captivating and frequently baffling lyrics were very much a part of my musical education. Coincidentally playing their 4th album Home, and realized that three of the band (Brooker, Wilson, and now Reid) are dead. Truly, the signposts cease to sign…

Bruce Garfield wrote,

Today I received the very sad news that my long-time friend, Keith Reid, the lyricist for the classic English progressive band Procol Harum passed away. The lyrics of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ (and every Procol Harum song) live within me forever. RIP old buddy.

CirdecSongs said,

PROCOL HARUM’S brilliant lyricist Keith Reid has died. Certainly, one of the most intelligent voices of Rock/Pop to have ever skipped the light fandango.


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