05 November 2020 16:38
Ken Hensley, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with 70s rock band Uriah Heep, has died aged 75. His press representative said he had died "peacefully following a very short illness". His Uriah Heep bandmate Mick Box said he was in "deep shock … Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people's hearts forever." His brother Trevor wrote on Facebook: "His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us. We are all devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss." As well as playing guitar and keyboards with the band – and helping popularise the latter instrument as part of an emerging harder rock sound – Hensley penned and sang lead vocals for one of the band's key tracks, the stirring folk-rock song Lady in Black. He also wrote Easy Livin', which was a hit across Europe in 1972, as well as a large number of the band's other songs.
Born in London in 1945 and raised in Stevenage, Hensley came of age amid the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s, playing in his early band the Gods with Mick Taylor, who would go on to join the Rolling Stones and John Mayall's band; Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer also passed through their ranks. In 1969, Hensley joined Spice, who soon renamed themselves Uriah Heep. He spent a decade with the band, recording 13 albums with them that straddled prog, blues, heavy metal and more, before leaving in 1980. Their biggest chart hit came with Return to Fantasy, which reached No 7 in the UK album chart in 1975; four of their albums from this period also reached the US Top 30. After he left, unhappy with the band's musical direction, the 80s featured spells with hard rock bands he had influenced, including WASP, Blackfoot and Cinderella.
As well as occasional one-off live reunions with Uriah Heep, he sporadically released solo material, including the ambitious Blood on the Highway (2007), an autobiographical rock opera featuring the Alicante Symphony Orchestra, hard rock vocalist Glenn Hughes, and more. He had recently finished a new album, My Book of Answers, due for release in February. Hensley is survived by Trevor and two other siblings Mark and Dawn, as well as his wife Monica. Ken Hensley, keyboardist, guitarist and chief songwriter for long-running British hard rock band Uriah Heep, died Wednesday, according to a post by guitarist Mick Box on the band's official Twitter account. 5th November 2020: I received devastating news this morning from Ken's manager Steve Weltman that Ken Hensley has passed away. My sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica and may he rest in peace. Mick His death was announced in a Facebook post by his brother Trevor, who did not cite a cause. "I am writing this with a heavy heart to let you know that my brother Ken Hensley passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening," he wrote. "His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us. "We are all devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss and ask that you please give us some space and time to come to terms with it. Ken has gone but he will never be forgotten and will always be in our hearts." Born in London in 1945, Hensley grew up outside the city and followed a familiar course for British rockers at the time, learning to play guitar as an adolescent and playing with a series of early 1960s bands as a teen. In 1965 he formed the Gods, which over the course of the next few years would included future Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer and future Uriah Heep bassist Paul Newton and drummer Lee Kerslake. The group released a pair of albums on Columbia but dissolved late in the decade, with Hensley briefly joining Toe Fat, which despite a horrendous band name achieved some success in the era. Hensley was enlisted by Newton as a keyboardist in a band called Spice, which was renamed Uriah Heep to pursue a more progressive rock direction. The group quickly gelled with Hensley, Kerslake, guitarist Mick Box, bassist Gary Thain and singer David Byron, touring heavily throughout the 1970s and scoring hits with songs like "Easy Living," "Lady in Black," "Stealin'" and "Look at Yourself." Hensley left the group in 1980, released solo material and joined the American band Blackfoot before settling in St. Louis, Mo. and operating a recording studio. He continued to record and release music, often guesting with groups he'd influenced such as W.A.S.P. and Cinderella, and occasionally joined his former Uriah Heep bandmates onstage. Kerslake, who played with Ozzy Osbourne after leaving Heep, passed away from cancer just six weeks ago.