Denny Laine, Wings and Moody Blues musician, dies age 79

Denny Laine, lead singer of the Moody Blues and a guitarist with Sir Paul McCartney’s band Wings, has died at the age of 79.

His wife Elizabeth Hines said he died after a long battle with lung disease.

Among other achievements, Laine sang on the Moody Blues’ multi-million selling Go Now and co-wrote the Wings hit Mull of Kintyre.

Sir Paul paid tribute on Instagram, calling the musician “an outstanding vocalist and guitar player”.

“Denny was a great talent with a fine sense of humour and was always ready to help other people,” he said.

“We had drifted apart but in recent years managed to re-establish our friendship and share memories of our times together.”

Musical youth

Born Brian Hines in the Channel Islands, Laine grew up in Birmingham and was inspired to play guitar by jazz legend Django Reinhardt.

His stage name derived from a childhood nickname, Denny, and his sister’s favourite singer, Frankie Laine. (The similarity to Penny Lane, written by his future Wings’ bandmate, was coincidental.)

His professional career began as the frontman of a local band called Denny Laine and the Diplomats, which featured future ELO musician Bev Bevan on drums.

But when the band failed a record label audition, Laine left to join The Moody Blues.

There, he scored a number one hit with Go Now and followed it up with a number of R&B-influenced singles like From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You) and Bye Bye Bird.

Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine of Wings.
Image caption,

Laine (right) performing with Paul and Linda McCartney in 1977

But their commercial success was on the slide, and Laine left before the band reinvented itself as a progressive rock outfit with songs like Nights In White Satin.

His next project, the Denny Laine String Band, also struggled to achieve chart success; and the guitarist took a sabbatical in Spain to study flamenco guitar, before joining Cream drummer Ginger Baker in his hard rock outfit Air Force.

Then, in 1971, McCartney announced the arrival of Wings – his first band since the Beatles, centred around songs written with his wife Linda.

Laine provided guitar, bass and vocals, giving essential support to McCartney on hits like Jet, Band on the Run and Live and Let Die.

He had known McCartney since the Diplomats and The Moody Blues supported The Beatles on tour in the 60s; and although he had previously been known as a frontman, he enjoyed the freedom Wings afforded him.

“I was in the shadows more, but I wasn’t bothered by that,” he told Billboard earlier this year.

“I was traveling the world and learning a lot and having a good time in many ways. So from that point of view, it was easy for me.”

But he was gifted solo sections during concerts on the Wings Over America tour, where he sang Go Now, amongst other songs.

In the studio with Wings in 1973IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

In the studio with Wings in 1973

When Wings dissolved, Laine continued as a solo musician – having already released a handful of albums in the 1970s.

1980’s Japanese Tear included the Paul McCartney co-write Send Me The Heart, along with several songs Wings had recorded but never released.

Future albums included Hometown Girls, Wings On My Feet and Lonely Road – and the musician re-imagined some of Wing’s biggest hits on 1996’s Wings At The Sound of Denny Laine.

His final solo album, The Blue Musician, was released in 2008 and he continued to tour, playing a selection of the songs he was associated with, until very recently.

His death comes shortly after Wings announced a 50th anniversary reissue of Band On The Run.

Although Laine maintained that he “didn’t do favourites”, he held a special affection for that record.

“The most important album to me is Band on the Run because it was just me and Paul and Linda doing a few harmonies,” he said.

“As musicians, it was just Paul and me and the input I had on that album that made it special to me. He was on drums and I was on guitar and the album had a special feel to it.”

In her statement, Laine’s wife said the musician expected to recover from lung disease, but the condition got progressively worse over the last few weeks.

“He fought everyday. He was so strong and brave, never complained,” she wrote.

“All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar.”

After thanking fans for their support, she asked for “the time and privacy” the family would need “as we grieve for our loss”.

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