Ray Shulman, co-founder and guitarist of the influential prog-rock band Gentle Giant, has died at the age of 73.
According to his brother and bandmate, Derek, Ray passed away on March 30 after “gallantly enduring a long illness”.
After growing up in a musical family, Ray and his brothers, Phil and Derek, started their first band together in the early 1960s. Performing as Simon Dupri and Big Sound, the band soon secured a record deal with EMI and had their own Top 10 hit with their song “Kites”. At one point, the line-up included a young pianist named Reginald Dwight, who went on to find fame as Elton John.
Simon Dupree and Big Sound’s existence was short-lived, however, as the Shulman brothers became disillusioned with the music industry and came to be seen as one-hit wonders. After an unsuccessful attempt to release music under The Moles moniker, the group broke up.
In 1970, the Shulman brothers formed a new band called Gentle Giant alongside Gary Green, Kerry Minnear, and Martin Smith. Fusing elements of rock, jazz, and classical music, Gentle Giant was an early pioneer in the progressive rock genre along with the likes of King Crimson, ELP, Yes, and Genesis.
He debuted in 1970’s self-titled Gentle Giant, a collection of complex layered arrangements and unusual instrumentation. Ray played a wide variety of instruments, including bass, guitar, violin, viola, recorder, and keyboardist, and composed most of the group’s music along with Minear.
Over the next several years, Gentle Giant released several well-received albums, including 1971’s Taste acquisition1972 three friends1972 octopus1973 In a glass houseand 1975 Freedom.
After Gentle Giant split up in 1979, Shulman worked as a producer and engineer for artists such as The Sugarcubes, The Sundays, and Ian McCulloch.
“Ray was truly a genius in many ways. He was a caring, caring soul,” his brother Derek wrote in a tribute. “He was an amazing composer, musician, music producer, and technical wizard. He was a true artist and preferred to stay in the background and let his work speak for him “rather than for himself”.