Curved Air and Sky founder Francis Monkman has died, aged 73

Francis Monkman
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Francis Monkman, founding member and keyboard player of UK prog rockers Curved Air and classical rock crossover band Sky, has died, aged 73. Members of Curved Air broke the news on their Facebook page earlier today, that Monkman had passed away on Friday May 12.

Following his departure from both Curved Air and Sky, Monkman also had a long and distinguished career composing film music in the 1980s, notably for 1980s The Long Good Friday as well as performing on soundtracks for The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

He worked with Renaissance, Al Stewart and both Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno on 801, and his 1981 progressive rock solo album featured a contribution from Camel's Andy Latimer.

"The members of Curved Air are sad to announce the passing of original founder member Francis Monkman on the 12th May 2023, the band said in a statement. "Francis passed away peacefully at his home in the English countryside, shortly after a late stage diagnosis of cancer, with his loved ones by his side.

"Francis played on the band’s first three studio albums and then moved on to co-found Sky and play on that band’s platinum-selling debut album and its follow up Sky 2.

"Francis is also known for his playing synthesiser on the scores to The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Superman II and two of the James Bond movies, The Spy Who Loved Me and Live and Let Die. Francis’ score for The Long Good Friday has the avid admiration of film fans in its own right.

"Later in his career, Francis followed his passion for harpsichord and organ playing. He travelled around Europe supporting the work to restore historic organs and he was particularly proud to have played at the Bach-Stammhaus.

"If Francis found out there were Curved Air fans in the audience he’d sneak part of Piece Of Mind into his playing of Bach’s music with great feeling. He’d recently released a solo album called The Bach Family.

"Francis is survived by two brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins, his partner Christine and as a deeply spiritual person he is now reunited with his late 5 year old daughter, Maya, on the other side."

Curved Air singer Sonja Kristina added: "During the lunar eclipse on May 5th, Francis Monkman and I shared a last wonderfully vibrant conversation about our music, life and death - and the fine musicians who keep alive the legacy of Curved Air over 50 years and beyond.

"I told him how proud I was to be still performing our beautiful songs, that his passion for sonic adventure was ground breaking and his lyrics fine and eloquent - notably on Over And Above and Piece Of Mind - his Curved Air extended masterpieces."

Former Curved Air violin player Darryl Way added "he was a deeply spiritual and kind man who was sensitive and inquisitive about the human condition and the world we live in.

"I will miss him deeply. We weren't on the phone to each other all the time, but just knowing that he was in the world and creating his wonderful music, was comfort enough."

Prog sends its condolences to his family and former band mates.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.