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The Guardian FEBRUARY 20, 2013 - by Caspar Llewellyn Smith
KEVIN AYERS DIES AT SIXTY-EIGHT
Singer-songwriter and founding member of pioneering psychedelic band Soft Machine has died
Kevin Ayers, one of the most influential figures in the history of British psychedelia, has died. The singer-songwriter and founding member of the band Soft Machine was sixty-eight.
Soft Machine are considered a key psychedelic band: part of the "Canterbury scene", alongside acts including Caravan, Egg, Gong and Hatfield and the North, the group then became a fixture at the UFO Club in London in the late 1960s. The band took their name from a William Burroughs novel, after receiving permission from the Beat author. The group toured with Jimi Hendrix and their 1968 debut, The Soft Machine, is considered a classic of the genre.
After quitting Soft Machine in 1968, Ayers worked with artists including Mike Oldfield and Brian Eno and released seventeen solo albums, including his whimsical debut Joy of a Toy, The Confessions Of Dr Dream And Other Stories and Falling Up. His most recent album was 2007's The Unfairground, which included contributions from a younger generation of artists, including members of Teenage Fanclub, Neutral Milk Hotel and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci.
Born in Herne Bay, Kent, Ayers was partly brought up in east Asia by his stepfather, a district officer in British Malaysia. At the Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury he subsequently met future Soft Machine members Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge. It was at one of Ayers's parties in 1973 that the drunken Wyatt fell out of an upstairs window, leaving him permanently paralysed from the waist down.
Ayers lived in Ibiza for several years, where he struggled with an addiction to heroin. In recent years he was resident in the south of France.
"I would have made a very unlikely star with a voice like mine," he told the Guardian in 2003. "I mean, a public school rocker with a plummy BBC accent... hardly."
He added in that same interview: "I think you have to have a bit missing upstairs, or just be hungry for fame and money, to play the industry game. I'm not very good at it."
Ayers died at his home in the village of Montolieu. He is survived by three daughters - Rachel Ayers, Galen Ayers and Annaliese Ellidge - and his sister Kate.