Ken Hensley, former URIAH HEEP vocalist songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, died peacefully on November 4 following a very short illness. He was 75 years old.
Hensley was one of the most important musicians of the past half a century. His work with URIAH HEEP in the 1970s helped to make the band hugely influential. He also collaborated with bands such as BLACKFOOT, W.A.S.P. and CINDERELLA, as well as building a very successful solo career. As a writer, he was responsible for such classics as "Lady In Black", "Easy Livin'", "July Morning" and "Look At Yourself".
A very spiritual person, Hensley became an inspiration to many and known for encouraging talented artists.
URIAH HEEP guitarist Mick Box said: "I am in deep shock at the news Ken Hensley has passed away, and my sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica.
"Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people's hearts forever. RIP Ken."
Ken had recently finished work on a new project, "My Book Of Answers", which is due for release end of February 2021.
He leaves behind a wife, Monica, and two brothers Trevor, Mark and sister Dawn, and his close friend and manager Steve Weltman.
Trevor Hensley said in a statement: "I am writing this with a heavy heart to let you know that my brother Ken Hensley passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening. 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 and ask that you please give us some space and time to come to terms with it.
"Ken will be cremated in a private ceremony in Spain so please don’t ask for information about a funeral.
"Ken has gone but he will never be forgotten and will always be in our hearts.
"Stay safe out there."
Earlier this year, Ken told Eonmusic that he had no interest in returning to URIAH HEEP. "I did the reunion thing in Moscow with Mick [Box] about five or six years ago [on October 15, 2015 at Moscow Crocus], and I was just doing it for money," he said. "That wasn't all together a pleasant experience because I expected it to be like it was in 1975 or '73 or '74, so I was crushed by my own expectations, to be perfectly honest with you.
"I'm perfectly happy with where I am. I may have played my last show, because the virus has killed every show that I'd planned for this year, and we're unlikely to be able to play next year. But that doesn't bother me either, because I've had such a wonderful life, and so much of my life is way beyond anything I ever dreamed I would achieve, so I can sit back and say it was great, it was fantastic, and just get on with other things. I'm just very peaceful that it happened with where I'm at, and I know that if I got on stage with HEEP again, it would just be a facsimile, and I never want to be part of that."
Regarding his departure from URIAH HEEP, Ken said: "We had almost a competition in the band on who would replace [previous singer] John Lawton, and the band took the majority position and hired John Sloman against my objections. And I knew he was wrong — somewhere between Gino Vannelli and Stevie Wonder, who desperately wanted to be Robert Plant, was never going to be the right front man for the band. And in the studio when we recorded 'Conquest', I couldn't believe the vocals; it was impossible to get him to sing straight. And so I would moan regularly about it, in the producer's chair, but it didn't make any difference. By then, everybody was so enthralled by this new singer, and the fact that they had beaten me in a competition, and so yes, you're right; by the time we left the studio after making that album I was done.
"I went on the obligatory European tour, which was no fun at all, and then we broke up in, I think Portugal, which was the last show we did. I woke up in my hotel room, and I said, 'Well, that's it; I'm done.' Went back to London, called a meeting, and just said, 'Sorry, but I've had enough,' I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew I didn't want to do that."
Photo credit: Andre Sakarov