The Moody Blues' Ray Thomas: 12 Essential Moments From the Late Legend

While other members of the Moody Blues, notably Justin Hayward and John Lodge, are better known, the late Ray Thomas' position in the band should not be diminished. It was he and keyboardist Mike Pinder who put the group together during 1964 in Birmingham and saw it through the transition between its debut album and the epochal follow-up Days Of Future Passed.

Thomas -- who retired from the group during 2002 and passed away on Jan. 4 at the age of 76, just a few weeks after the Moodys' Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was announced -- contributed plenty of key moments to the Moodys with his pen, his voice and his flute (and occasionally tambourine). These are a dozen of his best moments with the band.

"It Ain't Necessarily So" (1965): Thomas' first lead vocal for the Moodys came on this rendition of George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy & Bess staple on the covers-heavy The Magnificent Moodies debut.

"Nights In White Satin" (1967): Thomas made his mark on the Moodys' biggest hit, dominating the mid-song instrumental break with a flute solo 11 months before Ian Anderson filled the first Jethro Tull album with them.

"Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)" (1967): It's Justin Hayward's song, but Thomas' skipping flute line gave the tune a crucial Sunday In The Park playfulness.

"Twilight Time" (1967): A youthful sounding Thomas floats in and out of this Days Of Future Passed track, his flute bolstered by a full woodwind complement as the song builds into a psychedelic pop excursion.

"Dr. Livingstone I Presume" (1968): A 19th century medical missionary may seem like an eccentric topic for a pop song, but Thomas turned it into an enjoyable ditty that let him show off his tambourine skills during the outro.

"Legend Of A Mind" (1968): Thomas' Moodys masterwork from In Search Of the Lost Chord celebrated Timothy Leary (famously "dead" in the lyric 28 years before his actual passing) and LSD trips -- the latter purely theoretical, we're sure.

"Eternity Road" (1969): Thomas wrote and led this dramatic ebb-and-flow track from To Our Children's Children's Children that really came to life during the Moodys' later orchestral concerts.

"Floating" (1969): Thomas imagines a life lived in outer space on this smooth and melodic To Our Children's... song that some may even hear as a precursor to what we now call Yacht Rock.

"For My Lady" (1972): Thomas channeled sea shanties into this gentle, classically romantic Seventh Sojourn track that was the B-side to "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)."

"Painted Smile"/"Reflective Smile"/"Veteran Cosmic Rocker" (1981): Thomas closed the Moodys' Long Distance Voyager album with this three-track suite ruminating about performing, aging and mortality. The latter also allowed him to showcase his harmonica skills.

"I Am"/"Sorry" (1983): Another album-closing couplet, this time for The Present, that finds Thomas trippy and Middle Eastern on the former and back in adventurous pop mode for the latter.

"Celtic Sonant" (1991): A lush, hearty and atmospheric tone poem from Keys of The Kingdom that blended spoken word, singing and rich flute amidst other madrigal touches and the hopeful (or melancholy) refrain that "the wheel keeps on turning" even though his departure from the band lay ahead.