Nik Turner, co-founding saxophonist, flutist and vocalist of the pioneering English space-rock band Hawkwindhas died at the age of 82.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nik Turner – The [Mighty] Thunder Rider, who passed away peacefully at home Thursday evening,” Turner’s family wrote on his personal Facebook profile. “He has moved on to the next phase of his cosmic journey, guided by the love of his family, friends and fans. Watch this space for his events.”
Born in 1940 in Oxford, England, Turner took two years of saxophone and clarinet lessons in the early 60s. He became interested in free jazz, which emerged in the late 50s and early 60s, and tried to incorporate these improvisational styles in the context of a rock band. He got his chance in 1969 when he started working as a roadie for a new band consisting of Dave Brock, Mick Slattery and John Harrison. Turner and fellow roadie Michael “Dik Mik” Davies were quickly promoted to band members and the quintet adopted the name Group X, which soon changed to Hawkwind Zoo and eventually Hawkwind.
Turner first played with Hawkwind from 1969 to 1976. This marked the band’s most successful period, including a run of four consecutive Top 20 albums in their native UK, beginning with the 1971s In search of space and ends with the 1975s Warrior on the edge of time. Turner briefly returned to the band from 1982–84, lending a saxophone solo to 1982’s “Void City” Choose your masks and features on numerous live albums and compilations.
Between his two Hawkwind stints, Turner founded the psychedelic-punk hybrid band Inner City Unit, which released four albums between 1980 and 1985. Shortly after his dismissal from Hawkwind, Turner also vacationed in Egypt and recorded himself as flute in the King’s Chamber of the King’s Chamber The Great Pyramid of Giza. These recordings were later incorporated into a full album, recorded with a multitude of musicians under the name Sphynx. The resulting album, Xitin todaywas published in 1978 and contained lyrics adapted by Turner from the Egyptian The Book of the Dead. Many of the Sphynx musicians also appeared on the 1978 protest single “Nuclear Waste”, with lead vocals from Plug.
In his later years, Turner continued to tour with various Hawkwind and Sphynx alumni. He formed Space Ritual, named after Hawkwind’s 1973 live album The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and Londonin 2000. The band featured several key ex-Hawkwind members and released several live albums as well as two studio LPs over the next decade.
Hawkwind has had a huge revolving door of musicians over the last half century, with one of its highest profile players being late Engine head frontman Lemmy Kilmister, whose 1971-75 tenure overlapped with Turner’s. “We lost Lemmy’s old bandmate Nik Turner today,” Motorhead tweeted on Friday. “Play some Hawkwind nice and loud! ‘Brainstorm’ here we go!”
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