Singer was face of Dave Clark Five
Mike Smith, the lead singer, keyboardist and face of the Dave Clark Five at the height of the British band’s popularity, died Thursday of pneumonia. He was 64.
Smith was admitted Wednesday morning to Stoke Mandeville Hospital outside London with a chest infection stemming from complications of a 2003 spinal cord injury that had left him paralyzed, his New York agent, Margo Lewis, said in a statement.
Smith had been hospitalized since the accident and was released in December when he moved into a specially prepared home near the hospital with his wife, Arlene.
His death came two weeks before the group was to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smith had said that he was hoping to attend the March 10 induction ceremony in New York.
Although the Beatles were the most popular of the British Invasion bands of the 1960s, the Dave Clark Five claimed a string of U.S. billboard hits, many of them co-written by Smith and Clark, including “Because,” “Glad All Over,” “Any Way You Want It” and “I Like It Like That.”
The band made 12 appearances on Ed Sullivan’s variety show, the most for any British act.
The group’s antics were captured in John Boorman’s 1965 documentary, “Catch Us if You Can,” which followed Smith and the band through the English city of Bristol.
The group was founded by Clark, who played drums, in 1958. Smith was not an original member. He joined in 1961 as keyboardist, lead singer and the band’s most recognizable face. The “Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll” called Smith “a truly outstanding soul shouter.”
Years later, Smith noted that there was a certain irony in the British Invasion. While groups from England were bringing new sounds to America, many of the musicians in those groups were soaking up American blues and pop recordings.
“I used to buy import records and discovered the Contours, Isley Brothers, Lightnin’ Hopkins. . . . America wasn’t listening to that, but in England we thought they were brilliant,” Smith told the Record newspaper of Bergen County, N.J., in 2003.
Smith was born in London on Dec. 12, 1943. He began studying classical music at age 5 and was admitted to Trinity Music College in London at 13. He was also a fan of the great jazz artists Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. When he joined the Dave Clark Five, he was the only member of the group to have had classical music training.
After the demise of the band in the early 1970s, Clark and Smith continued to release singles as Dave Clark & Friends until 1973. Smith later worked with Mike D’Abo, onetime vocalist for Manfred Mann.
He also produced records for Shirley Bassey and European opera performer Michael Ball. In addition, he sang on the original recording of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Evita.”
Smith made a good living writing commercials for companies including American Airlines, British Airways, Volvo and McDonald’s. In 2003, he returned to performing in the United States with Mike Smith’s Rock Engine.
But later that year, tragedy hit his life. His son was killed in a diving accident, and Smith severely injured his spinal cord after falling while attempting to scale a fence at his home on the Costa del Sol in Spain.
Many of his peers, including Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, helped defray his high medical bills through donations and fundraisers.
David Letterman’s “Late Show” bandleader Paul Shaffer helped organize a benefit concert in New York in August 2005 that featured many of Smith’s fellow British Invasion stars, including the Zombies and Peter & Gordon. A DVD of that concert is scheduled to be released.