Uriah Heep songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley has died at the age of 75.
Confirming his passing, Hensley’s management said he had died “peacefully following a very short illness”.
His former Uriah Heep bandmate Mick Box said he was in “deep shock” and hailed his “musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever.”
“His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us. We are all devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss,” Hensley’s brother Trevor wrote on Facebook.
During his time with the band, Hensley played a major role in popularising the role of keyboards in heavy rock, as well as masterminding one of the band’s biggest hits – the folk-rock epic ‘Lady In Black’.
He also wrote ‘Easy Livin’, which became a major European hit in 1972, and a string of other hits for the band.
His career with the group began in 1969 when they were known as Spice, before renaming themselves Uriah Heep, taking the name from a character in Charles Dickens’ seminal novel David Copperfield.
Hensley recorded 13 albums with the band, before leaving in 1980. Their biggest came in 1975’s ‘Return to Fantasy’, which reached No 7 in the UK album charts.
He departed the group after growing unhappy with the band’s direction – before taking roles in heavy rock bands including Blackfoot and Cinderella.
5th November 2020: I received devastating news this morning from Ken’s manager Steve Weltman that Ken Hensley has passed away.
My sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica and may he rest in peace.
URIAH HEEP pic.twitter.com/JGtO2AHEgw
— Uriah Heep (@uriah_heep) November 5, 2020
While occasional live reunions followed, he focused on solo work in the decades that followed, including 2007’s ‘Blood on the Highway’, an autobiographical rock opera.
As The Guardian notes, he recently finished a new album, My Book of Answers, which was due for release in February. His death comes only two months after that of Lee Kerslake, the band’s long-time drummer.