Gary Brooker, Singer for Procol Harum, Dies at 76
Mr. Brooker dropped out of college to work full time as a musician. He had begun playing in the group the Paramounts, which largely performed American R&B songs, at the end of the 1950s. By the time the Paramounts broke up in 1966, they had shared bills with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles; later, he would play studio sessions and concerts with the former Beatles.
Mr. Brooker went on to start a new band, the Pinewoods, which included Mr. Fisher, to play the songs that he had begun writing with Mr. Reid. The Pinewoods were soon renamed Procol Harum, fractured Latin for “beyond these things.” The new band’s combination of piano and organ was uncommon in British rock, though American gospel groups used it, as did the rock group the Band. Mr. Brooker described his initial idea for the new band as “a bit of classical, a bit of Bob Dylan, a bit of Ray Charles.”
Procol Harum’s first recording session, working with studio musicians, yielded “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” When it became a hit, the guitarist Robin Trower and the drummer B.J. Wilson, who had been in the Paramounts, joined Procol Harum to record its 1967 debut album, titled simply “Procol Harum.” Its structural ambitions expanded on its 1968 album, “Shine On Brightly,” which included the five-part, 18-minute suite “In Held ’Twas in I.”
Mr. Brooker married Françoise Riedo in 1968. She survives him.
The title track of Procol Harum’s 1969 album, “A Salty Dog,” featured a dramatic orchestral arrangement by Mr. Brooker, and the band soon began performing with orchestras. Its 1971 album, “Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra,” gave it an American hit with an expansive remake of “Conquistador,” from Procol Harum’s debut album.
By then, both Mr. Fisher and Mr. Trower had left the group, and Mr. Brooker stood as the band’s clear leader. Its 1973 album, “Grand Hotel,” reveled in orchestration; its 1974 release, “Exotic Birds and Fruit,” emphatically rejected it. The songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller produced “Procol’s Ninth” in 1975.