It is with great sadness that we report the passing of music legend Neil Innes, the talent behind the music of The Bonzo Dog Band, Monty Python and, of course, exquisite genius of The Rutles, where he portrayed “Ron Nasty”. He was 75 years old.
A spokesperson for the Innes family said he had not been suffering from any illness and had passed away unexpectedly on Sunday night.
Python founding member Sir Michael Palin described him as “a great writer” and “the most lovely friend”.
“He was a great writer and he was eccentric and he was clever without being pretentious,” he added. “And he was the warmest of people to be with, he was a most lovely friend.”
Innes had been travelling home from France with his family, who have asked for privacy “at this difficult time”.
“It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29 December 2019,” they said in a statement.
“We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all.
“He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain.”
They went on: “His wife Yvonne and their three sons, Miles, Luke and Barney, and three grandchildren, Max, Issy and Zac, give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.”
Mr. Innes was often considered “the seventh Python”, appearing with the comedy group and acting as their musical director. The band which launched Mr. Innes’ career, The Bonzo Dog Band, were cult favorites with tracks like “(I’m The) Urban Spaceman” and “Can Blue Men Sing The Whites?”
After Monty Python came to an end, Mr. Innes joined fellow Python Eric Idle on a new series, “Rutland Weekend Television”, which gave birth to their spoof band The Rutles (a seamless pastiche of The Beatles). From this, Neil Innes (and the alter ego of Ron Nasty) became legendary and beloved.
Paraphrasing the words of his fellow Rutle, Barrington Womble (or “Barry Wom”), “we are shocked and stunned… very stunned”.
As Mr. Innes so eloquently put it, “I’ve suffered for my music; now it’s your turn”.