Neil Innes, a British singer, songwriter and comedian known for his work with â€œMonty Python,â€ the Rutles and the madcap â€˜60s outfit the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, died Sunday at the age of 75, according to theÂ BBCÂ and multiple news outlets.
In addition to being a key member of the Bonzos â€” whose 1968 single â€œIâ€™m the Urban Spacemanâ€ was produced by Paul McCartney under a pseudonym â€” Innes appeared in many projects related to the British comedy troupe â€œMonty Python,â€ including the lead minstrel in â€œMonty Python and the Holy Grailâ€ (thatâ€™s him singing â€œBrave Sir Robinâ€) andÂ the BeatlesÂ spoof documentary â€œAll You Need Is Cash,â€ where he was the main songwriter and played the John Lennon character Ron Nasty.
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A spokesman for the family told the BBC that Innes had not been suffering from any illness and had â€œpassed away unexpectedly on Sunday night.â€ He had been travelling home from France with his family.
â€œIt is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29 December 2019,â€ a statement from the family reads. â€œWe have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all. He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain. His wife Yvonne and their three sons, Miles, Luke and Barney, and three grandchildren, Max, Issy and Zac, give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.â€
Born in England in 1944, Innes learned several instruments as a child and graduated from Goldsmiths University in 1966. He joined the Bonzos that year and was the groupâ€™s de facto musical director, cowriting nearly all of its songs with frontman Vivian Stanshall. The group released four albums between 1967 and 1972 â€” songs from which spawned the titles of both the influential American rock magazine Trouser Press and the band Death Cab for Cutie â€” and reformed several times over the years.
Innes also wrote songs and appeared in several episodes of Pythonâ€™s last season in 1974, as well as the troupeâ€™s later films â€œLife of Brian,â€ â€œJabberwockyâ€ and other projects. He joined Pythonâ€™s Eric Idle in a subsequent series called â€œRutland Weekend Television,â€ which spawned the Rutles project.
While the Rutles spoof made merciless mockery of the Beatlesâ€™ history (in a move of questionable taste, the Yoko Ono character was a Nazi), the Fab Four themselves were largely quite amused by it and George Harrison himself appeared in it as a newscaster. The project began a long association between Harrison and Pythonâ€™s Eric Idle, leading to films such as â€œTime Bandits.â€ The Beatlesâ€™ publisher at the time, ATV Music, successfully argued that Lennon and McCartney should receive songwriting credits for the Rutlesâ€™ songs, and ultimately settled out of court. Years later, Innes was added to the credits of Oasisâ€™ 1994 track â€œWhateverâ€ â€” ironically written by bandleader Noel Gallagher, a devoted and vocal Beatles fan â€” which was ruled to have infringed on the copyright of his song â€œHow Sweet to Be an Idiot.â€
In the wake ofÂ the Beatlesâ€™ 1990s â€œAnthologyâ€ retrospective, Innes reformed a version of the Rutles and toured with it in 1996, and in recent years played with Beatles tribute act the Bootleg Beatles.
â€œPeople were desperate to get the Beatles back together and a guy in America was offering them $20 million each for a reunion! It was quite absurd,â€ Innes told NPR in 2012. â€œAnd George Harrison, who by then was closely involved with the Pythons, felt something even sillier needed to be done. He loved every moment of The Rutles. The 1996 revival for our Archaeology album was even funnier really.â€
A film about Innesâ€™ life called â€œThe Seventh Pythonâ€ was released in 2008.
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