Former King Crimson bassist/singer Gordon Haskell died last week at age 74.
Haskell’s longtime Polish booking agent, Roman Rogowiecki, confirmed the singer’s death to Billboard, saying that he died on Thursday (Oct. 15) following a year-long battle with lung cancer. “Great, real English character with a fantastic, dry sense of humor,” Rogowiecki says. “Felt underrated and I agreed with him. He was as good as Gregory Porter but never made it in America.”
Though Haskell never performed live with the long-running prog rock band, his short tenure included playing on the band’s third studio album, 1970’s Lizard, as well as on the song “Cadence and Cascade” from their second album, that same year’s In the Wake of Poseidon. The multi-talented musician was recruited to join Crimson by his former grammar school classmate and band founder/guitarist Robert Fripp; the two formerly played together in a band called The League of Gentlemen.
Haskell went on to join the psychedelic British bands The Quotations, Rupert’s People, Cupid’s Inspiration and The Fleur de Lys, the latter best known for their Jimmy Page-produced 1965 cover of Norman Petty’s “Moondreams.” He also released a couple of solo singles, “Boat Trip” and “Oh-La-Di-Doo-Da-Day,” and the album, Sail on My Boat, in 1969.
Fripp asked Haskell to join Crimson after singer Greg Lake split the group to join Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Following his brief stint in the pioneering prog act with an ever-rotating cast of players surrounding Fripp, Haskell returned to his more folk-focused solo career, dropping It Is and It Isn’t in 1973 and working in the studio with acts ranging from Cliff Richard and Van Morrison to Alvin Lee and Tim Hardin.
“His time in KC wasn’t a particularly happy part of his long career but his work on In The Wake Of Poseidon and in particular, Lizard is much admired in the Crimson community,” read a statement from King Crimson, alluding to the two decade-long legal skirmishes Haskell had with the band over royalties. Haskell released 13 solo albums between 1969-2020, with his most recent effort, The Cat Who’s Got the Cream, dropping in January of this year.
The singer scored his biggest solo hit in 2001 when the jazzy Harry’s Bar single “How Wonderful You Are” hit No. 2 on the U.K. singles chart, barely missing out on the coveted Christmas number one spot to Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman’s cover of “Somethin’ Stupid.” Haskell released his memoir, The Road to Harry’s Bar — Forty Years on the Potholed Path to Stardom, in 2006.
See tributes to Haskell and listen to some of his solo and Crimson music below.