Horslips guitarist Johnny Fean has died, aged 71

Horslips vintage group shot against black background
(Image credit: Ian Finlay)

Johnny Fean, guitarist with Irish prog rockers Horslips, has died aged 71.

His Horslips bandmates paid tribute to Fean, who died on Saturday, saying he was the "sweetest man in rock". In a tribute to the guitarist, saying "Johnny wasn't only one of the greatest guitar players ever, he was also the sweetest man in rock and roll.

"His immeasurable talent won him countless supporters throughout the years. We remain his biggest fans. He devoted his life to music and we'll be forever thankful that he did."

Horslips rose to prominence ijn the 1970s combining hard driving rock, progressive flourishes and traditional Irish folk music, often looking to Irish myths and legends for their lyrical subject matter. The band's 1972 debut album Happy To Meet - Sorry To Part, featured a gatefold, die-cut sleeve, which allegedly upset Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, who was on the same label who were stalling over the designs for his own band's Sticky Fingers album.

Later albums such as 1973's The Tain, which featured the band's best known song Dearg Doom, and 1976's Book Of Invasions, the band's highest UK charting album, further cemented Horslips reputation as one of Ireland's greatest rock exports. The band broke up in 1980, ten years after they'd formed.

Horslips reformed sporadically throughout the ensuing years, with Johnny's brother Ray stepping in for drummer Eamon Carr, most recently for some shows in 2019, billed as Barry Devlin, Johnny Fean and Jim Lockhart from Horslips, while Jim Lockhart, Ray Fean and Fiach Moriarty joined Devlin at at this year's Northern Irish Music Prize at Ulster Hall in Belfast for a set of Horslips songs when the bass player was honoured with the legend award,

Horslips were recently the subject of a 35-disc box set, More Than You Can Chew, which celebrated the band's 50th anniversary.

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.