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Ian McDonald, co-founder of King Crimson and Foreigner, dead at 75

Ian McDonald
(Image credit: Sid Smith)

King Crimson and Foreigner founding member and multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald has died, aged 75.

McDonald's son Max wrote on Facebook: "I’m deeply saddened to tell you that my father passed away yesterday from cancer. He was incredibly brave, and never lost his kindness or his sense of humour even when the going was rough.

"My father was a brilliant, intuitive musician, a gentle soul, and a wonderful dad. He will live on forever through his beautiful music and the love of his fans. Thank you all".

McDonald, who had served for five years in the British army as a bandsman, co-founded King Crimson in 1968 alongside Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Michael Giles and Pete Sinfield, and went on to record the band's classic 1969 debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King, before quitting the band, along with drummer Michael Giles, to release a lone McDonald And Giles album in 1970. A return to Crimson in 1974 was suppered when Fripp chose to terminate the band.

In a post on the King Crimson website (opens in new tab), Robert Fripp noted: "Ian brought musicality, an exceptional sense of the short and telling melodic line, and the ability to express that on a variety of instruments."

McDonald also had a career as a session musician, notably playing on T-Rex's 1971 hit Get It On (Bang A Gong) and also producing albums for Irish prog rockers Fruupp and Darryl Way's Wolf.

He helped co-found Anglo-American melodic rockers Foreigner along with guitarist Mick Jones in 1976, appearing on the bands first three albums Foreigner (1977), Double Vision (1978) and Head Games (1979). He released a lone solo album, Driver's Eyes, in 1999.

In 1996 he featured alongside Steve Hackett (with whom he guested on several occasions) at two Tokyo concerts that also featured the late John Wetton and drummer Chester Thompson, where they played a series of classic Genesis, Crimson,  Asia and Hackett material, which was released as The Tokyo Tapes in 1998.

Hackett tweeted: "I’m really sad to hear the news of Ian McDonald’s passing. He was a great friend and an incredible musician/songwriter. He will be very much missed."

In 2002 he was a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band alongside former King Crimson members Michael and Peter Giles, Mel Collins and current Crimson singer Jakko Jakszyk, performing a repertoire of classic Crimson. He also appeared, alongside Fripp, on the late Judy Dyble's  2009 album Talking With Strangers.

More recently he had been working with long-time neighbour Lynnea Benson and her husband Ted Zurkowski, directors of New York City's Frog and Peach Theatre Company, which specialises in off-Broadway productions and readings of Shakespearean plays.

Jerry Ewing
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, as well as sleevenotes for many major record labels. He lives in North London and happily indulges a passion for AC/DC, Chelsea Football Club and Sydney Roosters.