Moody Blues fans are in mourning. Just three months ahead of the group’s long-overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, founding flutist and vocalist Ray Thomas has died. Thomas was found dead at his home in Surrey, England, on Thursday. The famed Moody Blues musician was 76-years-old.
Ray Thomas’ record label Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records confirmed his sudden death on Facebook. At this time, no immediate cause of death is known for the rock legend.
Ray Thomas played on all of The Moody Blues albums until his retirement from the group in 2002. The classic 1967 song “Nights in White Satin” prominently featured Ray Thomas’ flute playing in an extended solo, and 50 years later it is still regarded as one of the progressive rock band’s greatest songs.
On Sunday, Moody Blues bassist John Lodge tweeted about his long relationship with his childhood friend Ray Thomas, who started out with him in the band El Riot and The Rebels in the early 1960s before Thomas went on to form The Moody Blues.
“Ray and I have been on this magical journey through life together since we were 14,” Lodge wrote. “Two young kids from Birmingham who reached for the stars…and we made it together. El Riot you will always be by my side.”
Many fans were hoping to see the musician’s reunion with Lodge, vocalist Justin Hayward, drummer Graeme Edge, and keyboardist Mike Pinder at the group’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in April. While the band’s Rock Hall announcement did not include a statement from Ray Thomas and a reunion performance of the founding members had not been confirmed, many fans were holding out hope that Ray and his iconic flute would return to play with the band at the long-awaited ceremony.
In December, Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward told Rolling Stone he was unsure if former band members Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder would attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland.
“I don’t know about that,” Hayward said. “When you leave a group it’s because you don’t want to be in it. I miss them both.”
After Ray Thomas’ death was announced, the Rock Hall posted a poignant tribute to the late musician, citing his contributions to The Moody Blues’ signature sound and the band’s biggest songs.
“Ray Thomas’ lyrics, vocals & instrumentation helped establish the Moody Blues’ groundbreaking sound. The captivating flute solo in ‘Nights in White Satin’ is emblematic of his artistry. We celebrate Thomas’ life & music today & prepare to induct the Moody Blues into the HOF.”
The Moody Blues will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on April 14, 2018.
You can see Ray Thomas and The Moody Blues in an early music video for “Night in White Satin” below.