“I always try and make the words for my songs sound poetic and have a lot of meaning, but I never think of them as being poems. I think of them more as my statements,”: that’s what the great Keith Reid, who died of cancer on March 23rd at the age of 76, told this scribe when asked about whether he viewed himself as a poet or a lyricist. Keith wanted to be seen as the latter yet, of course, he belonged in pantheon of the former and should have been praised if only for the immortal imagery of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” – the first fruit of Reid’s long-term partnership with singing pianist Gary Brooker that announced the advent of PROCOL HARUM to the world which fell in love with the surrealistic ballad.
The British wordsmith’s lines were often dark, marked by familial scars brought on by Holocaust, and often enigmatic, that perfectly suited such dramatic pieces as “Broken Barricades” and “Beyond The Pale” or such opulent aural pictures as “Grand Hotel” – but they could also come as sensual as on “Luskus Delph” and fragile as on “Skating On Thin Ice”… or even anthemic as suggested by “You’re The Voice” which he co-penned for John Farnham with Chris Thompson and a few other writers. Keith’s lyrics elevated songs on several Robin Trower’s albums, including Victims Of The Fury” and “B.L.T.”, the guitarist’s collaboration with Jack Bruce, as well as numbers on Gary Brooker’s solo records.
Thus, the poet’s link to PROCOL – where he was much more than just a writer; he was a band member, being present during the studio sessions appearing alongside the musicians in many of the collective’s photos – used to run deep, and it was his words that dictated the course of their melodies almost until the end, as Reid stepped down from his post before their last-ever album, “Novum” from 2017, and Brooker’s passing in 2022 robbed fans of the chance to see the two reunited. Still, there were two albums credited to THE KEITH REID PROJECT, 2008’s “The Common Thread” and 2018’s "In My Head" which featured Keith’s stellar friends from beyond the legendary ensemble he cofounded.
“Once I stood upon Olympus, then the heavens opened wide. I beheld that flaming chariot and I saw the sacred bride”: that’s how Keith Reid perceived his muse, and that’s how we should remember the poet extraordinaire.