Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers dies, aged 68

Klaxons and Luke Haines have paid tribute

Kevin Ayers, founder of pioneering British psychedelic band Soft Machine, has died aged 68.

According to a report by The Telegraph, Ayers was found by a neighbour at his home in the south of France at around lunchtime on Tuesday (February 19). It is thought he died on February 18. A note was found by Ayers’ bed, reading, “You can’t shine if you don’t burn.”

Born in Herne Bay, Kent, but spending his early years in Malaysia, Ayers formed Soft Machine (then The Soft Machine) with Robert Wyatt while in 1966. Having played early gigs with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, the band supported Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 US tour, and released their debut album the same year. Ayers’ first solo album, ‘Joy Of A Toy’, followed in 1969. In a long and illustrious recording career to follow, Ayers worked with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Elton John, Nico and many more.

Though he retired for a period of 15 years in the 1990s, Ayers returned to music in later life, and released his last album, ‘The Unfairground’, in 2006. It included guest appearances from members of Teenage Fanclub, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Neutral Milk Hotel and Roxy Music.

The late John Peel was a great champion of Ayers, writing in his autobiography, “Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.” Klaxons member Jamie Reynolds and more today took to Twitter to express their sadness. See their tributes below.