The music world has lost another great voice from rock’s early years. Phil May, longtime vocalist for British rock band Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75.
According to the BBC, May died Friday morning (May 15) from complications that arose after having emergency hip surgery. The singer needed the surgery after falling from his bicycle earlier in the week.
At the Pretty Things website, the band issued a lengthy statement that reads as follows:
At 7am this morning, Phil May, lead singer with The Pretty Things, died in hospital after surgery to replace his hip joint, in Norfolk, where he had been staying with his family.
If you’re reading this, you will already know what a remarkable singer and performer Phil was, throughout the 55 years and more that he fronted The Pretty Things, and you will probably also be aware of his prodigious talent as a writer, lyricist and ground-breaker, with numerous musical “firsts” to his name.
But he was far, far more than that. To those of us who knew him intimately, and loved him, personally, he was a remarkable, mercurial, influential and irreplaceable human being and the finest, most honourable human being I have ever known.
He was funny, creative, quick, decent, insightful, hugely talented in so many ways, infuriating, direct, and unswervingly loyal, in an industry of frauds, and honest, painfully so. This Idol did not have feet of clay. His work across 55 years encompasses some of the true high points of rock music from its’ early R&B roots – right through to the present day. He will never see the release of what will now be the last Pretty Things album – the raw, roots, acoustic blues of “Bare As Bone, Bright As Blood” – which will be released later this year. So sad, it was a real labour for him to complete, but worth every moment of toil.
He will probably be remembered in history as “the man with the longest hair in Britain”, something he literally fought for, to make his point. But that was just the tip of his particular iceberg. His art, work and performance defined him so much more completely than any headliner ever could, as anyone who has heard “S. F. Sorrow” or been lucky enough to see a 70+ year old Phil smashing sell-out shows across the world, with the last, great Pretty Things, electric line-up, will confirm.
He was a unique, and consistently challenging and creative man, who was never ready to give up his freedom to be what he chose to be, for money or even fame. He, and his long-time partner on stage and record, Dick Taylor, always danced to a different drummer, and one with a mesmerising beat.
So, he will hopefully be remembered by you as the great, unique and original, mould-breaking artist he always was, and not just some silly pop star with nothing to say and too much time to say it. Phil was different. We will all remember him with love, affection, and sadness, not a day will pass without him being in my, personal thoughts and in my heart, He was my friend, my artist, my burden, my blessing, my soul mate and my hero. I never met anyone like him, and I won’t ever again. We loved Phil, as many of you did…… The King is dead. We won’t find another….. Goodbye, Phil. We will miss you every day, and remember you with fondness and a smile.
May was a founding member of the band in 1963 along with guitarist Dick Taylor, who had previously played with the Rolling Stones. Their career started off rooted with blues rock influences like many of the burgeoning rock acts of the ’60s. Over time, their music became more experimental, with some crediting the band with delivering one of the first rock opera records, SF Sorrow, in 1968.
The Pretty Things, “Don’t Bring Me Down”
The band adapted with the times, venturing into a more psychedelic rock sound heading into the ’70s and morphing again to the new wave era of the ’80s. The band issued 12 albums between 1965 and 2015, with their self-titled debut album having the biggest success in the U.K. Stateside, they charted on the Billboard 200 album chart with 1974’s Silk Torpedo and 1976’s Savage Eye.
May fronted the band from 1963 to 1976, but exited amid tensions in the group. Pretty Things eventually reformed in 1978 initially with their 1967 lineup, but over time May and Taylor remained the constants. In 2018, the group announced their farewell tour.
The Pretty Things, “Rosalyn”