Moody Blues Cofounder Mike Pinder, Last Surviving Original Member of Band, Dies at 82

Mike Pinder, the Moody Blues’ longtime keyboardist and the last surviving founding member of the Rock Hall-inducted band, has died at the age of 82. Pinder’s family announced his death via a statement shared by the group’s bassist John Lodge, stating that Pinder had died peacefully on Wednesday at his home in Northern California home. No cause of death was announced.

Their statement described him as a “musician, father, cosmic philosopher & friend” who “lived his life with a childlike wonder, walking a deeply introspective path which fused the mind and the heart.”

Pinder was an early proponent of the Mellotron, a keyboard that was essentially an early sampler that created a distinctive orchestral sound that marked many songs by the Moody Blues and other groups of the progressive-rock era. Born in Birmingham in the British Midlands in 1941, he came up on the city’s vibrant music scene — which ultimately produced members of groups ranging from the Move and Traffic to Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath — and formed the “Moodies” in 1964 with Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas (both of whom would remain for many years), Clint Warwick and singer Denny Laine. The group rocketed to stardom in 1965 with their cover of Bessie Bank’s soulful ballad “Go Now” and Pinder wrote many of the group’s early originals with Laine, but he departed the group in 1966 (ultimately joining Paul McCartney’s Wings several years later).

Pinder played a key role in recruiting Laine’s replacement, Justin Hayward, and Lodge joined shortly after, cementing the group’s classic lineup, which would remain through 1978. “I’d written some songs and sent them to Eric Burdon [of the Animals]. Unbeknownst to me he passed them to Mike Pinder in the Moodies and soon I had a call from Mike. I came up to London to meet him and we got on,” Hayward told Rolling Stone.

In 1967, the group recorded what is considered by many to be the first progressive rock album, “Days of Future Passed,” working with an orchestra whose sound Pinder would reproduce on the Mellotron in a live setting. The album included the orch-rock classic “Nights in White Satin,” which became an unlikely hit single in the U.S. some five years later. Yet the Moody Blues were a popular act in the U.S. and the U.K. during this period, with all six of the albums released between 1967 and 1972 going being certified gold or platinum.

The group went on hiatus in the mid-1970s — with Pinder releasing a solo album titled “The Promise” — and returned for their 1978 reunion album “Octave,” but chose not to remain with the band. He had relocated to Northern California with his family and worked in the tech industry, returning to music only occasionally and releasing a second solo album in 1994. He appeared with the group when it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but did not speak. Some fans perceived this as disapproval of the Hall, but he later said it was because the ceremony already had gone on for too long.

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