Gary Brooker, Procol Harum frontman who wrote ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale,’ dies

Musician Gary Brooker in a suit and tie
Gary Brooker, the lead singer of the rock group Procol Harum, in London in 2006.
(Max Nash / Associated Press)

Gary Brooker, the Procol Harum frontman who sang one of the 1960s’ most enduring hits, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has died. He was 76.

The English rock band said Brooker died at his home Saturday. He had been receiving treatment for cancer.

A statement posted on the band’s official website said: “With the deepest regret we must announce the death on February 19 2022 of Gary Brooker MBE, singer, pianist and composer of Procol Harum, and a brightly-shining, irreplaceable light in the music industry.”


The London-born Brooker was the singer and keyboard player with the band, which had a huge hit with its first single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” With its Baroque-flavored organ solo and mysterious opening line — “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ’cross the floor” — the song became one of the signature tunes of the 1967 “Summer of Love.”

It was included on the band’s first album and was a top 10 hit in the United States. In 2018, it was one of six singles inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Procol Harum’s former organ player, Matthew Fisher, sued Brooker over the song’s famous Hammond organ solo. Brooker said he wrote the Bach-inspired melody before Fisher joined the band, but a judge awarded Fisher a share of credit and royalties alongside Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.

Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, whose 1992 hit ‘Nearly Lost You’ helped drive grunge’s commercial breakthrough, died Tuesday at 57.

The judge said Fisher’s contribution to the song was “substantial but not, in my judgment, as substantial as that of Mr. Brooker.”

The band never had another hit on the same scale, but Brooker continued to lead Procol Harum for more than five decades, through various lineup changes and 13 albums.

Brooker also released four solo albums and wrote and sang for Eric Clapton’s band and with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, and he toured with Ringo Starr’s band, Ringo’s All-Starrs.

In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II made him an MBE — member of the Order of the British Empire — for services to charity.