Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid dead at 76

Keith Reid
(Image credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot)

Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid has died at the age of 76. The news was confirmed in a post on the band's Facebook page

The statement read: “We are sad to hear of the death of Keith Reid. An unparalleled lyricist Keith wrote the words to virtually all Procol Harum songs, as well as co-writing the John Farnham hit You’re the Voice. His lyrics were one of a kind and helped to shape the music created by the band. 

"His imaginative, surreal and multi-layered words were a joy to Procol fans and their complexity by design was a powerful addition [to] the Procol Harum catalogue. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends."

Reid, who co-founded Procol Harum with pianist/singer Gary Brooker in April 1967, was best known for his lyrics to the classic A Whiter Shade Of Pale, the band's debut single, which was recorded the same month. The song would reach the #1 spot in 19 countries and sell more than a million copies in the US.  

“Keith Reid had written the lyrics and posted them to me,” Brooker told Classic Rock. “I’d been working on a musical idea, which until then had been purely instrumental, when I opened the post and A Whiter Shade Of Pale was on the top of other lyrics. I was immediately taken with the immense length of the original four verses with a chorus on each, and the narrative form it took, with its mysterious characters and goings-on."

Reid had actually written the lyrics the previous year, responding to Bringing It All Back Home-era Bob Dylan by writing his own poetry-cum-lyrics in a similar style. They were turned down by Steve Winwood, but Reid would go on to write the lyrics for every Procol Harum album from 1967's self-titled debut to 2003's The Well's On Fire, although he didn't contribute to the band's final album, 2017's Novum

"At some point after the last album we came to a crossroads," said Brooker. "He turned left and I went straight on. There’s not a lot more I can say about it than that."

Meanwhile, Reid's lyrics for Farnham's You're The Voice helped propel it to the top of the Australian charts in 1986 – where it was chosen as Single Of The Year – and it was also a Top 10 hit across Europe.   

"Keith was a lovely guy and a massive talent who will be very much missed," said Andy Qunta, who co-wrote You're The Voice.

Most recently, Reid released two albums by The Keith Reid Project. The Common Thread came out in 2008, and featured vocals from the likes of Terry Reid, Southside Johnny and John Waite, while In My Head – credited to The KRP – was released in 2017.

Gary Brooker died in February 2022. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.