LOS ANGELES - Neil Innes, a British songwriter and comedian who collaborated with Monty Python and co-founder of the Beatles pardoy band The Rutles, has died. He was 75.
According to a statement posted to Innes’ website said the musician died unexpectedly on Sunday, Dec. 29 of natural causes. The statement read: "We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all."
Innes began his music career in the early 1960s with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, an avant-garde comedy group known for the 1968 the top-five single "I’m the Urban Spaceman," which was co-produced by Paul McCartney. The single earned Innes the Ivor Novello Award. The band’s 1967 song "Death Cab for Cutie," later became the name of an American indie rock band.
Innes was born in Danbury in Essex. His Scottish father was a warrant officer in the British Army, and Innes spent his childhood in West Germany, where his father was deployed with the British Army of the Rhine. He took piano lessons from age 7 to 14 and taught himself to play guitar. His parents were supportive of their children's artistic leanings, and his father also drew and painted. After returning to the United Kingdom Innes received his formal education at Thorpe Grammar School and the Norwich School of Art and Goldsmiths' College, London, where he studied drama. Innes graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Goldsmiths in 1966.
Innes went on to join the band GRIMMS and developed a close relationship with the "Monty Python" members in the mid-1970s, going on to write music for their albums and TV series, and appearing in their films.
Innes later formed The Rutles, a parody version of The Beatles, off the back of his work on a sketch show called "Rutland Weekend Television." He would go on to star in a mockumentary film of the Rutles, dubbed "All You Need is Cash," which aired on NBC, featuring the Python's Eric Idle as a Paul McCartney character to Innes' Ron Nasty character, based upon John Lennon.
Music writer Mark Lewisohn was among those who paid tribute to Innes online. "Deeply saddened by the death of Neil Innes," he wrote on Twitter. "Loved his brilliant witty music, loved him. Mankind will miss his wry sagely wisdom."
Comedian and actor Diane Morgan also shared a farewell to Innes on Twitter.
"One of the nicest people I've ever met and a towering talent," she wrote.
A statement posted on Innes' website Monday said he "died of natural causes" on Sunday, "quickly without warning and, I think, without pain."