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Passings: Kevin Ayers (1944 - 2013)

Kevin Ayers, singer-songwriter and founder of the group Soft Machine, died in his sleep on Monday in Montolieu, France at the age of 68.

Ayers was born in England but spent most of his childhood in Malaysia. He later returned to England and got involved in the music scene in Canterbury where he went to school. He eventually became a member of the group Wilde Flowers with Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.

The Wilde Flowers became the Soft Machine with the addition of Mike Ratledge on keyboards and Daevid Allen on guitars with Ayers moving to the bass. The bands mix of rock and jazz led to the early British psychedelic movement and they released their first single, Love Makes Sweet Music/Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'  in February of 1967. Their self-titled debut album came the next year along with a support spot on Jimi Hendrix' 1968 tour.

It was during that year that the band brought in Andy Summers (Police) to play guitar; however, there were clashes between the two artists and Summers was fired. Ayers also left the group at the end of the year, moving to Ibiza, Spain. It was there that he started writing the music that would become his solo debut, Joy of a Toy, an album that would see him backed by his ex-Soft Machine bandmates.

For the rest of the 70's, Ayers was extremely prolific, turning out nine more albums, some of which included such guests as John Cale, Brian Eno and Nico. Beginning in the late-70's and throughout the 80's, Ayers moved back to warmer climates where he was addled by drug addiction. Still, he released five more solo albums although he fully admits not remembering much about making them.

Ayers became a recluse in the 90's with only one album, the acoustic Still Life With Guitar, to his name. It took American artist Timothy Shepard to pull Kevin out from his private world, ending in 2007 with what would become his final album, The Unfairground.

Ayers is survived by three daughters and a sister.


Unknown said…
Thank you for noting Kevin's passing. He was a marvelous artist indeed. A couple of corrections, however:

1. Andy Summers (already a veteran, actually) was brought in to play guitar. Kevin was playing mostly bass. They didn't double up. Summers details the circumstances of his dismissal from the band in his enjoyable book One Train Later.

2. Obituaries have been updated to reflect that Kevin had three children, all daughters.

One further comment. It should be noted that of his last three albums, Falling Up was a "return to form," i.e., it's pretty terrific, and Still Life With Guitar and, especially, The Unfairground are masterpieces.


Curtis Roberts
VVN Network said…
Hi Curtis. Thanks for the comments! We've updated the article to make the corrections.