Uriah Heep: Former keyboard player Ken Hensley dies aged 75

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Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Ken Hensley wrote a lot of Uriah Heep's early hits and sang on their track Lady in Black

Former Uriah Heep keyboard player Ken Hensley has died at the age of 75.

Hensley wrote several of the London rock band's early tracks, including Easy Livin', Stealin', and Lady in Black - which he also sang on.

He died "peacefully" on Wednesday evening, following a short illness, his management confirmed.

Former bandmate, Mick Box said his music "will be in people's hearts forever".

"I am in deep shock at the news Ken Hensley has passed away, and my sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica," wrote Box.

"Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people's hearts forever. RIP Ken."

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Uriah Heep enjoyed their heyday in the 1970s, blending heavy and prog rock, with Hensley's keyboard sound high in the mix.

The band took its name from a character in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield.

'Like a mad dream'

Speaking to Eon Music in an interview published last week, Hensley reflected on the period, which saw his band headline arenas and sell millions of records.

"Well, to tell you the truth it was all like a mad dream," he said.

"It's the kind of thing when you're a little kid you dream about happening, and you know, you want to see your name on a billboard somewhere, you want to see your record getting released, you want to see your record in the charts."

He continued: "And then it turns into, 'well, maybe one day I might get a gold record' or 'maybe one day I'll headline a festival', but in the meantime you'll make do with what you've got, and then when all the other parts of it come true, there are two ways you can react to it:

"You can either overreact and assume that you've earned it or deserve it, or you can just stand there in awe and wonder and wonder what's next?!

"And I think we were just all a bit overwhelmed by all of it."

Image caption,
(Left to right) David Byron, Mick Box, Gary Thain, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake of Uriah Heep, backstage at Top of the Pop in 1972

Hensley left the band at the end of the decade and went on to play with Blackfoot and John Lawton, before forming his own band, Ken Hensley & Live Fire.

However, he did take part in a number of impromptu reunions with his former bandmates, often at the Uriah Heep Annual Convention.

In September this year, his former Uriah Heep bandmate, drummer Lee Kerslake, also died.

In a statement Hensley's management described the multi-instrumentalist as "one of the most important musicians of the past half-a-century", and "a very spiritual person".

His brother, Trevor, who is also a musician, wrote on Facebook that the family were "devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss" and asked for "space and time to come to terms with it".

He confirmed that his late sibling will be cremated in a private ceremony in Spain, where he lived on a farm with his wife Monica.

Hensley, who was born in South East London and raised in Stevenage, had recently finished work on a new project, My Book Of Answers, which is due for release in February.

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