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. He was 75.
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.
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