‘Monty Python’ actor and Rutles musician Neil Innes has died

The actor, who appeared in 'Life of Brian' and 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', was 75

Neil Innes, the Monty Python actor and Rutles musician, has died at the age of 75.

The news was confirmed by his agent, who said it was unexpected and that Innes had not been ill.

“We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all,” his family said in a statement.

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Born in Danbury, Essex, on December 9, 1944, Innes was married to wife Yvonne, who he met while studying at Goldsmiths College in London in the 1960s. The couple had three sons – Miles, Luke and Barney – and three grandchildren.

The family statement added: “His wife Yvonne and their three sons, Miles, Luke and Barney, and three grandchildren Max, Issy and Zac, give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.”

Monty Python
Monty Python pose with a large scarf around their necks during a visit to Paris. (L-R): Terry Gilliam, Neil Innes, Eric Idle, and Terry Jones. CREDIT: Pierre Vauthey/Sygma

Best known for his work with Monty Python, Innes appeared in both Life of Brian and Monty Python and The Holy Grail – the latter of which he wrote songs for.

He also performed and penned sketches for the group’s final TV series after the temporary departure of John Cleese, and toured with them in the UK and Canada.

He was one of only two non-Pythons to be credited as a writer on the series, alongside Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams.

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Innes also appeared in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky before joining Eric Idle on the sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, which spawned Beatles spoof band The Rutles where Innes played the character of Ron Nasty, who was based on John Lennon.

Before forming the parody band, Innes was a member of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who are scheduled to play a farewell gig at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire in May next year.

Innes is also credited as a co-writer on Oasis‘ ‘Whatever’, after the opening line and main referain of the song borrowed the melody of Innes’ ‘How Sweet To Be An Idiot’, which he wrote in 1973 and performed at some of Monty Python’s live shows. It was also used as the theme song for Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schulz’s podcast The Brilliant Idiots.

Tributes has begun to pour in for Innes since the news of his death.

Monty Python actor Michael Palin shared a heartfelt message. “Just heard the shocking news that Neil Innes has died,” he began. “Neil was one of the best. A terrifically accomplished musician, writer and performer who could make people laugh, cry and dance, all at the same time. He had an eye and ear for the surreal and a gentleness at the heart of all his work which made him the most delightful of companions.

“Neil accompanied the Pythons on our live tours, and try as hard as we could, it was Neil’s sublime performance “How Sweet To Be An Idiot’ that always brought the house down.

“Neil was the best friend you could wish for and one of the most naturally gifted entertainers I’ve ever met.”

Just heard the shocking news that Neil Innes has died. Neil was one of the best. A terrifically accomplished musician,…

Posted by Michael Palin on Monday, December 30, 2019

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band shared a photo Innes and the band reunited a few weeks ago for a “victory dinner.”

“The Bonzos were reunited one last time only a few weeks ago for a victory dinner,” the tweet read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Yvonne and the family at this sad time. RIP to the Urban Spaceman himself, the great Neil Innes xxxx”

Writer/director Edgar Wright wrote: “If it’s true that the great Neil Innes had sadly passed away, please let me raise a glass to the man. Forever a fan of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Allow me to share a favourite clip of them in action (with a bonkers Innes guitar solo too). RIP Neil.”

Comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar said: “Tragic news of @NeilInnes passing. Supremely gifted songwriter and comedian. Always acerbically funny and tremendous company. Here, sharing the stage at a @python celebration. Was glad to have met him many times. Deepest condolences to his friends and family. #RIPNeilInnes”

“V sad to hear Neil Innes, the brilliant comedian, musician, and Rutle, has died. Humming this today, having had it stuck in my head for approximately 40 years,” said Charlie Brooker, who posted his message with a link to The Rutles song ‘Cheese and Onions’.

Ian McMillan added: “#RIPNeilInnes A man who built songs from a scaffolding of nonsense around strong walls of melody and heart.”

See more tributes below:

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