English musician, flautist, singer, and composer in the UK rock band The Moody Blues, Ray Thomas passed suddenly on January 4, 2018. While no cause of death was announced, Thomas previously revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. He was 76 years old.
“We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humor, and kindness. It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife Lee at this sad time,” shared Thomas’ music label, Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records.
Raymond Thomas was born on December 29, 1941 in Worcestershire, England. During the 1960s, Thomas performed with blues and soul groups across Birmingham including The Saints and Sinners and The Ramblers. Later on, Thomas formed the band, El Riot and the Rebels, with bass guitarist John Lodge and keyboardist Mike Pinder. This band once had the privilege of opening for The Beatles in Tenbury Wells.
Following the news of Thomas’ passing Lodge tweeted, “Ray and I have been on this magical journey through life together since we were 14... two young kids from Birmingham who reached for the stars...and we made it together. El Riot you will always be by my side.”
In 1964, Thomas, Pinder, and Lodge recruited guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick to form The Moody Blues. The band’s first album, The Magnificent Moodies, yielded a No. 1 UK hit with “Go Now.” This songs lush, orchestral sound is believed by many to be the start of what is now called progressive rock. Their 1967 album Days of Future Passed is considered a prog-rock landmark for Thomas’ flute solo on “Nights in White Satin.”
During his time with The Moody Blues, Thomas wrote and sang several songs including “Twilight Time,” “Legend of the Mind,” “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume,” “Dear Diary,” “Veteran Cosmic Rocker” and “And the Tide Rushes In.” After the band briefly broke up in 1974, Thomas released two solo albums From Mighty Oaks and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams. The Moody Blues reformed in 1977 and Thomas remained a member until failing health caused him to retire in 2002.
Survivors include his wife, the former Lee Lightle, and three children, Adam, Nancy, and Zoe.
The Moody Blues are due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio this April.