Graeme Edge, drummer and co-found of British rock band The Moody Blues, which helmed the progressive-rock movement of the ’60s and ’70s, died on Thursday at his home in Bradenton, Florida. He was 80.
The band’s frontman, Justin Hayward, confirmed his passing on the group’s website on Thursday. Rilla Fleming, Edge’s partner, said he died from metastatic cancer, the New York Times reported.
“It’s a very sad day. Graeme’s sound and personality is present in everything we did together and thankfully that will live on,” wrote Hayward.
Born in Rocester, Staffordshire, Edge co-founded The Moody Blues in 1964 along with original band members Denny Laine, Clint Warwick, Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas.
“In the late 1960’s we became the group that Graeme always wanted it to be, and he was called upon to be a poet as well as a drummer,” wrote Hayward, who joined the group in 1966 with bassist John Lodge after Laine’s departure.
“He delivered that beautifully and brilliantly, while creating an atmosphere and setting that the music would never have achieved without his words. I asked Jeremy Irons to recreate them for our last tours together and it was absolutely magical.”
Edge’s drumming and spoken word poetry was instrumental to the band’s biggest hits in their “classic” era of the ’60s and into the ’70s, including “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).”
When The Moody Blues went on hiatus from 1974 to 1977, Edge traveled the world on his yacht and recorded two solo albums, “Kick Off Your Muddy Boots” (1975) and “Paradise Ballroom” (1978), inspired by his visit to the Caribbean.
In 1978, the band reunited for the album “Octave,” after which they pivoted from prog-rock to a more synth-pop sound in the earlier ’80s. Around this time, Edge linked with a jazz-combo group formed of various musicians from London’s club scene, called Loud, Confident and Rong.
After suffering a stroke in 2016, Edge retired from touring in 2019. Yet he remained an official member of The Moody Blues until his death, nearly 60 years after its founding.
“When Graeme told me he was retiring I knew that without him it couldn’t be the Moody Blues anymore,” said Hayward in his statement. “And that’s what happened. It’s true to say that he kept the group together throughout all the years, because he loved it.”
In 2018, The Moody Blues was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their last album was released in 2003. They have sold more than 70 million albums to date. Overall, Edge recorded 16 studio albums with The Mood Blues, ending with 2003’s Christmas-themed “December.”
“Graeme was one of the great characters of the music business and there will never be his like again,” Hayward concluded. “My sincerest condolences to his family.”
Edge, who has married and divorced twice, is survived by Fleming, as well as his daughter, Samantha Edge; his son, Matthew; and five grandchildren.
Several fans, musicians and musical institutions paid tribute in the wake of Edge’s passing.
“Edge’s mystical poetry on the Moodies records created flights of fantasy and otherworldly journeys for generations of fans,” the The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame posted on their official Facebook page with a video of Edge’s speech at The Moody Blues’ induction ceremony.
Rod Argent of The Zombies, The Moody Blues’ rock contemporaries, also shared a statement on the “very sad” news. “Way back in the mid sixties we were invited to a couple of the legendary Moody Blues parties in Roehampton – where the original band had a house – and we particularly remembered how much Graeme, along with the rest of the band, was just so welcoming and hospitable,” he reminisced. “That quality was something Graeme never lost.”
Kiss frontman Paul Stanley tweeted “RIP Graeme Edge” and shared a memory of an “EPIC” performance he attended in 1970. “Sounded just like their recordings. NOBODY could touch them at what they created and to this day you know them as soon as you hear them.”
Bassist John Lodge posted a statement of his own on the band’s official website. “To me he was the White Eagle of the North with his beautiful poetry,” he wrote. “His friendship, his love of life and his ‘unique’ style of drumming that was the engine room of the Moody Blues. … I will miss you Graeme.”