Born: October 19, 1946;

Died: March 23, 2023.

KEITH Reid, who has died at the age of 76, was the co-founder and non-performing lyricist of Procol Harum, a highly-regarded British band whose best-known hit was A Whiter Shade of Pale, which topped the British charts for six weeks during the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967.

For the last couple of years Reid had been receiving cancer treatment. His death came 13 months after the passing of his fellow co-founder, Gary Brooker, the band’s singer and pianist.

In a message posted on Facebook, Procol Harum described Reid as “an unparalleled lyricist”, who wrote the words to virtually all Procol Harum songs.

It added: “His lyrics were one of a kind and helped to shape the music created by the band. His imaginative, surreal and multi-layered words were a joy to Procol fans and their complexity by design was a powerful addition the Procol Harum catalogue.

“Keith was the co-founder and lyricist for ... Procol Harum, notably penning their biggest hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which contains some of the most enigmatic lyrics of all time. He always said that, at the end of his life, he would explain what it all meant: but sadly he didn’t get this opportunity.”

He was born in Welwyn Garden City, on October 19, 1946, and was raised in an observant Jewish household. His father was a lawyer in Vienna until he was arrested during the antisemitic attacks on Kristallnacht in November 1938. Reid later said of his lyricism that “is very dark and I think it’s probably from my background in some subconscious way”.

Reid and Brooker were young men when they first met each other, courtesy of a mutual friend, Guy Stevens, a London DJ and house producer for the Island Records label.

Brooker was then in a Southend-on-Sea R’n’B band called The Paramounts. Stevens thought they should write their own songs and introduced Booker to Reid with that idea in mind. The Paramounts, however, disbanded. The duo began writing songs together , and eventually realised that if they wanted to perform them they would have to form their own group. The result was Procol Harum, named after a Burmese blue cat owned by the wife of one of Stevens’s friends.

A Whiter Shade of Pale, their biggest hit, has for decades caused fans to obsess over its impressionistic lyrics.

In a 2009 interview with the music collector’s magazine, Goldmine, Reid said: “I started off with the ‘whiter shade of pale’ line. I’ve always thought that songs ... they’re kind of like puzzles, but the difference being with a jigsaw puzzle you get all the pieces. Whereas writing a song, I always feel you get one piece, which I’ll call the inspiration.

“In this case, I had the line ‘a whiter shade of pale’. And so you have one piece of the puzzle, and then you kind of have to ... basically you have to invent a whole picture that this little piece you’ve got fits into.

“So it’s kind of like you’ve been given the last piece first, and now you have to make up the picture that that piece completes. And that’s really how that happened with ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ and also with quite a lot of other songs as well”.

In an interview with he said: “I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images, I was trying to be evocative.”

The song won Britain’s international song of the year at the 1968 Ivor Novello awards and, at the first Brit awards in 1977, took home the best British pop single 1952-1977 award for the hit along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Reid’s reputation as a lyricist extended far beyond their best-known song. He also penned the lyrics to such other songs as A Salty Dog, Conquistador, Homburg and Shine On Brightly.

Reid wrote almost all the lyrics for nine Procol Harum albums up until 1977. The band reformed for two further albums in 1991 and 2003. After Procol Harum, he worked as a manager for other artists. He had another chart success in 1986, co-writing a song for the Australian pop singer John Farnham, entitled You’re the Voice. It was a big hit in Australia and across the Continent, and reached No 6 in the UK .

He also released two solo albums, The Common Thread (2008) and In My Head (2018).