It’s difficult to believe but my friend John Lawton, mostly known as a vocalist with LES HUMPHRIES SINGERS, URIAH HEEP and LUCIFER’S FRIEND, died on June 29th less than two weeks shy of his 75th anniversary. He was no ordinary man by any means – open and kind, responsive and caring, ready to invite his old acquaintances for dinner at his home and loving, married for decades to his soulmate Iris. And, of course, he possessed one of the greatest voices in hard rock, easily holding his own alongside such peers as Ian Gillan and David Coverdale at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975, as part of the staging of Roger Glover’s “Butterfly Ball” extravaganza, the latter warbler not gelling with HEEP two years later and thus enabling John to step in and soar from “Firefly” onward before leaving after three albums only to join his former colleagues once in a while when Bernie Shaw was indisposed or some sort of celebration was in order.
Lawton would also return to LUCIFER’S FRIEND a few times, his latest stint lasting until recently and bringing forth several records, including "Black Moon" from 2019. The next year proved hard for the singer, though, seeing the demise of HEEP’s Lee Kerslake in September, Ken Hensley in November and LUCIFER’s Dieter Horns in December. Now John has joined them up there, leaving a lot of music and memories. I will always remember his laughter when it turned out the place of my staying in London was close to his home; his hug when we met at the local pub for one of our interviews; his waving me goodbye; his explanation, many years down the line, why he had a funny Skype name. He loved life itself, and now he’s gone. Still…
“I have no regrets, – John Lawton told me 19 years ago. – Music has given wholeness to me. Everything that’s happened is a wholeness to me, because I’ve done all the things I wanted to. You say, ‘Oh, I’d like to make a record’ – and you make a record; you say, ‘I’d like to do some live gigs’ – so you do some live gigs; ‘I’d like to have a record in the charts’ – so you have a record in the charts; ‘I’d like to be a number one’ – so you’ve got number one: ‘Free Me’ went to number one; ‘I’d like to record under my own name’ – so you record under your own name. So everything that I wanted to do has come true. And I don’t know how far I can take it. I would like to have a number one under my own name but I don’t think that’s possible.”
Rest in Peace, old friend. You’ll be sorely missed.