Budgie singer and bassist Burke Shelley dies aged 71

His daughter confirmed the news on social media

Burke Shelley, singer and bassist of the Welsh band Budgie, has died at the age of 71.

The musician’s passing was confirmed by his daughter Ela in a statement on Facebook last night (January 10). A cause of death is not yet known.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley,” she wrote. “He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town. He was 71 years old.

“Please respect the family during this time. With love, his four children: Ela, Osian, Dimitri and Nathaniel.”

Born in Canton, Cardiff in 1950, Shelley co-founded Budgie in 1967 with Tony Bourge  (guitar/vocals) and Ray Phillips (drums). The group released 10 studio albums between 1971 and 1982.

Budgie stopped touring in 1987 before reforming in the mid-1990s and 2000s. The band’s 11th and final full-length record, ‘You’re All Living in Cuckooland’, came out in 2006.

The group influenced hard rock and metal acts such as Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth, all of whom have covered Budgie previously. Lars Ulrich and co. offered up a live take on ‘Breadfan’ at one of Metallica’s 40th anniversary shows in San Francisco last month.

Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman of Swedish prog-metal band Opeth, has paid tribute to Shelley on social media.

“I almost choked on my coffee this morning when I read that one of my idols, the great Burke Shelley of Budgie had passed away. What a terrible loss!” he wrote, adding that the group were “underdogs” within the metal scene.

“I think Burke was one of those guys who was quite uncomfortable with the heavy metal tag, but it’s undeniable that they were instrumental in bringing it to the masses,” Åkerfeldt continued. You can read the full message above.

Shelley had battled Stickler syndrome – a genetic disorder – in recent years, as well as suffering two aortic aneurysms.

Back in February 2020, Shelley told Wales Online that he had turned down surgery to treat the condition due to the risk it could result in irreparable spinal damage.

“I want to live what life I have left and not be crippled,” he said. “I’ve got faith in God and have no worries about where I’m going. So I’ll just go when He decides to take me and, in the meantime, I’ll carry on doing what I want to do. Simple as that.”

Shelley explained to the outlet that surgery he underwent in 2010 had “messed up [his] diaphragm”, meaning he was unable to sing properly.

This is a developing story and will be updated…

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