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06 December 2023

Denny Laine, Key Former Member Of The Moody Blues & Wings, Dies Aged 79

Denny Laine Moody Blues Wings Dies 79
Photo: David Cole/Alamy Stock Photo
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Denny Laine, formerly the frontman of The Moody Blues who later enjoyed sustained mainstream success with Paul McCartney in Wings, has died aged 79.

The vocalist and guitarist had been suffering from lung damage caused by interstitial lung disease. Breaking the news of Laine’s passing, his wife, Elizabeth Hines, wrote on Instagram: “My darling husband passed away peacefully early this morning. I was at his bedside, holding his hand as I played his favourite Christmas songs for him … My world will never be the same.”

Continuing her tribute, Hines wrote of Laine’s illness: “He fought every day. He was so strong and brave, never complained. All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar … Denny was an amazingly wonderful person, so loving and sweet to me. He made my days colourful, fun and full of life, just like him.” She thanked fans and medical staff for supporting him.

Denny Laine was perhaps best known as the voice of the Moody Blues’ Go Now, one of the defining ballads of the 1960s, and co-wrote one of the biggest-selling songs in UK chart history, Wings’ Mull of Kintyre.

Born Brian Frederick Hines in Birmingham, 1944, he took on a more memorable stage name and began his first band in his teens: Denny Laine and the Diplomats, whose singer was the future glam star Roy Wood and whose drummer was the future ELO member Bev Bevan.

Laine co-founded The Moody Blues in 1964. The group had a big hit from the off with their second single, Go Now, a cover version of Bessie Banks’ R&B ballad. Propelled by one of the most distinctive, melancholic openings to a pop song ever – a downbeat Laine soulfully singing “we’ve already said goodbye” to a newly ex-lover – and a stunningly harmonised chorus, Laine’s emotional delivery of the song’s top line helped make it a major international success, reaching No 1 in the UK and No 10 in the US.

The band initially struggled to match that success, although a Laine co-write, From the Bottom of My Heart (I Love You), reached the UK top 30 in 1965. The Moody Blues also toured with The Beatles on the latter’s final UK tour later that year, but with the band at a low ebb in 1966, Laine left. Justin Hayward replaced him, and the Moody Blues would later enjoy further success with a more psychedelic direction thereafter with songs such as Nights in White Satin and the album Days of Future Passed.

Laine went on to play in several further bands, including Ginger Baker’s Air Force, but his biggest and most sustained success came with Wings, the group formed by Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, in the wake of the Beatles’ breakup.

Starting with the group’s debut album Wild Life, Laine spent the next 10 years with the band, earning co-writing credits including on the strident Celtic ballad Mull of Kintyre, a Christmas No 1 in 1977 and the first British single to sell 2m copies. Given an extra Scottish flavour with the addition of a local band of pipers, the song eclipsed the Beatles’ She Loves You to become the biggest-selling single ever in the UK, holding that record until the release of Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 1984.

Wild Life failed to make the UK top 10 but the band – perhaps aided by McCartney adding his name to the group for a spell – were soon hugely popular, with their next five albums (including the live LP Wings Over America) all topping the US charts. They included an enduring high point in McCartney and Laine’s back catalogue, Band on the Run, which features the Laine co-write No Words.

Denny Laine contributed to a pair of early 1980s McCartney solo albums while Wings were still a going concern, and while drummers and other guitarists came and went, Laine was the sole member to stay alongside the McCartneys for the duration of Wings’ career.

Following the band’s split in 1981, he recorded a number of his own solo LPs that decade, and later revisited the Wings material, including in a number of McCartney-less band reunions.

Leading the tributes to Laine, Paul McCartney wrote on social media: “I have many fond memories of my time with Denny: from the early days when The Beatles toured with the Moody Blues. Denny joined Wings at the outset. He was an outstanding vocalist and guitar player.”

McCartney added: “He and I wrote some songs together the most successful being Mull of Kintyre which was a big hit in the Seventies. We had drifted apart but in recent years managed to reestablish our friendship and share memories of our times together.

“Denny was a great talent with a fine sense of humour and was always ready to help other people. He will be missed by all his fans and remembered with great fondness by his friends. I send my condolences and best wishes to his wife, Elizabeth and family.”

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