Keith Reid Dies: Procol Harum Lyricist On ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ And Other Hits Was 76

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Keith Reid, who cowrote the lyrics for most of Procol Harum’s original songs, died March 23 of cancer, his wife confirmed. No details on location were provided.

Reid was a writer on Procol Harum’s biggest hit, 1967’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” as well as on group classics as “A Salty Dog,” “Conquistador,” “Shine on Brightly” and “Grand Hotel.”

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Born on October 19, 1946, in Hertfordshire, England, Reid began collaborating with Procol Harum keyboardist Gary Brooker in the 1960s. One of their first joint efforts, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” reached No. 1 in their native U.K., as well as in Australia, Canada, and several European countries. It also reached No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in the U.S.

Although not a performing member of Procol Harum, Reid was essential to the group’s mystique. His sometimes-oblique lyrics kept fans guessing as to interpretations, fueling discussions that kept the band in the forefront of prog-rock in the era.

Procol Harum in 1974, from left: Alan Cartwright, Chris Copping, B.J. Wilson, Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Mick Grabham
Procol Harum in 1974, from left: Alan Cartwright, Chris Copping, B.J. Wilson, Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Mick Grabham

Reid contributed lyrics to Procol Harum until 2017. In addition, Reid’s songs were recorded by Annie Lennox, Willie Nelson and Heart, among others. He was also one of four songwriters on “You’re the Voice,” a global hit for Australian singer John Farnham.

Reid also released an album titled The Common Thread, using his lyrics sung by artists like former Babys frontman John Waite and Southside Johnny Lyon.

On the business side, Reid was the founder of a company that handled personal management, publishing and production for artists, including Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower.

Procol Harum’s official Facebook page offered a tribute to Reid.

“We are sad to hear of the death of Keith Reid. An unparalleled lyricist Keith wrote the words to virtually all Procol Harum songs, as well as co-writing the John Farnham hit You’re The Voice. His lyrics were one of a kind and helped to shape the music created by the band. His imaginative, surreal and multi-layered words were a joy to Procol fans and their complexity by design was a powerful addition to the Procol Harum catalogue. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

Survivors include Reid’s wife, identified only as Pinkey.

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