Phil May of The Pretty Things Has Passed Away At Age 75 -
The Pretty Things, Phil May: Photo Ros O'Gorman

The Pretty Things, Phil May: Photo Ros O'Gorman

Phil May of The Pretty Things Has Passed Away At Age 75

by Paul Cashmere on May 16, 2020

in News

Phil May, the lead singer of influential 60s UK band The Pretty Things, has died at age 75.

In a statement the band posted at their website:

At 7am this morning, Phil May, lead singer with The Pretty Things, died in hospital after surgery to replace his hip joint, in Norfolk, where he had been staying with his family.

If you’re reading this, you will already know what a remarkable singer and performer Phil was, throughout the 55 years and more that he fronted The Pretty Things, and you will probably also be aware of his prodigious talent as a writer, lyricist and ground-breaker, with numerous musical “firsts” to his name.

But he was far, far more than that. To those of us who knew him intimately, and loved him, personally, he was a remarkable, mercurial, influential and irreplaceable human being and the finest, most honourable human being I have ever known.

He was funny, creative, quick, decent, insightful, hugely talented in so many ways, infuriating, direct, and unswervingly loyal, in an industry of frauds, and honest, painfully so. This Idol did not have feet of clay. His work across 55 years encompasses some of the true high points of rock music from its’ early R&B roots – right through to the present day. He will never see the release of what will now be the last Pretty Things album – the raw, roots, acoustic blues of “Bare As Bone, Bright As Blood” – which will be released later this year. So sad, it was a real labour for him to complete, but worth every moment of toil.

He will probably be remembered in history as “the man with the longest hair in Britain”, something he literally fought for, to make his point. But that was just the tip of his particular iceberg. His art, work and performance defined him so much more completely than any headliner ever could, as anyone who has heard “S. F. Sorrow” or been lucky enough to see a 70+ year old Phil smashing sell-out shows across the world, with the last, great Pretty Things, electric line-up, will confirm.

He was a unique, and consistently challenging and creative man, who was never ready to give up his freedom to be what he chose to be, for money or even fame. He, and his long-time partner on stage and record, Dick Taylor, always danced to a different drummer, and one with a mesmerising beat.
So, he will hopefully be remembered by you as the great, unique and original, mould-breaking artist he always was, and not just some silly pop star with nothing to say and too much time to say it.
Phil was different. We will all remember him with love, affection, and sadness, not a day will pass without him being in my, personal thoughts and in my heart, He was my friend, my artist, my burden, my blessing, my soul mate and my hero. I never met anyone like him, and I won’t ever again. We loved Phil, as many of you did…… The King is dead. We won’t find another….. Goodbye, Phil. We will miss you every day, and remember you with fondness and a smile.

15 May 2020

The Pretty Things had an incredible influence on the careers of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. In 2018 Dick Taylor told, “Bob Dylan referenced The Pretty Things in his song ‘Tombstone Blues’ with the opening line “The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course”.

“We used to know Dylan,” Dick said. “Brian Pendleton, our rhythm guitarist got really friendly with him. We presume that was an oblique reference to us.”

David Bowie was directly influenced by Phil May’s look in the 60s. “Absolutely,” says Dick. “He was our number one fan for the first few months of our career. When we were doing local gigs he would always be there. We did quite a few gigs up to ’68 where he was our support. Certainly right at the start he followed us religiously.”

Bowie named-checked The Pretty Things twice in song. “Bowie with ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ and ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’ was also a nod to the band,” says Dick.

As for Dick Taylor, well he was an original member of The Rolling Stones and played at the very first Stones gig in 1962.

Dave Davies of The Kinks and David Coverdale of Whitesnake have paid tribute to Phil May today.

Dave Davies of The Kinks

David Coverdale

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