Kevin Ayers truly lived life. The stories and work he left behind attest to that. He was a member of the Wilde Flowers, who started out as a British beat group and later incorporated jazz and psych into their sound. The group split up and formed The Soft Machine and Caravan, two extremely influential groups who made their own style of progressive rock known as the Canterbury Scene; Ayers’s own writing style influenced the quirky lyrics in the Canterbury genre.
The Soft Machine played regularly with Pink Floyd at the legendary UFO club in London. The band’s distinctive mix of jazz and psych caught the interest of Jimi Hendrix, who became a close friend to Ayers. Jimi later brought the band along to open for him on his American tour. Many who were there say that the Soft Machine blew Jimi out of the water almost every night. A highlight of the show was an endless version of “We Did It Again” written by Ayers, who sang it with his very distinctive baritone voice. It was his favorite song to play and he had so much fun singing it that he didn’t want it to end. The song personified the kind of person he was – the only lyrics in the song also make up the title of the song.
In true Ayers fashion, just as the group was getting recognition and touring became more strenuous, Ayers sold his bass and gracefully retreated to a beach in Spain to relax. Jimi Hendrix gave him an acoustic guitar and encouraged Ayers to continue to make music, which he did, writing several songs that would end up on his first solo album called Joy of A Toy. Backed by his Soft Machine bandmates and one Syd Barrett, he laid the blueprint of his style: laid back, quirky, eccentric, experimental pop. This gave way to a long prolific career. Every album was different from the last.
Ayers had no interest in what people thought of his work. He simply laid back and played for himself. He just wanted to have a good time and that’s exactly what he did.
Ayers passed away in his sleep on Feburary 18th at the age of 68. A note found by his bed read, “You can’t shine if you don’t burn.”
On the DIO website today:
Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.
- Wendy Dio
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