Ian McDonald, co-founder of two landmark bands of the era in progressive band King Crimson and rock band Foreigner, has died aged 75.
A rep said he “passed away peacefully on February 9 at his New York home surrounded by his family.” No cause of death has been disclosed.
McDonald was part of the original King Crimson lineup, which formed in 1967 in Dorset. A multi-instrumentalist, McDonald became the band’s main songwriter. After a breakout support slot with the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, London on July 5, 1969, they released their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, in October of the same year.
It was critically acclaimed and is now considered a classic. Pete Townshend of The Who called it a “weird masterpiece”. And Kanye West sampled McDonald’s instantly recognizable saxophone swagger from the song 21st Century Schizoid Man – originally recorded in one take – on his 2010 single Power.
McDonald told Ultimate Classic Rock that he’s not surprised the album has held up for over 50 years. “When we did this – and I was basically at the forefront of the production – I wanted to make sure that everything that went on the record would withstand repeated listening and hopefully withstand the test of time.”
The band’s original lineup broke up in late 1969, with McDonald and drummer Michael Giles departing from the darker styles favored by guitarist Robert Fripp. The outgoing duo released an album together, McDonald and Giles 1970s, which reflected their more pop approach to prog.
McDonald briefly joined King Crimson in 1974 before Fripp put the band on hiatus – although he would play with Fripp again in the 50-person progressive jazz band Centipede, led by British free jazz pianist Keith Tippett. In 2002, former members of King Crimson, minus Fripp, reformed as the 21st Century Schizoid Band.
McDonald formed Foreigner in 1976, alongside British guitarist Mick Jones (not the Clash guitarist) and American singer Lou Gramm. He appeared on the first three of their four consecutive five-time platinum-certified albums, but was fired in 1980 as Jones sought greater control of the band.
“I wouldn’t have left,” McDonald told Big Bang magazine. “I loved the band, it wasn’t my decision.” However, he occasionally played with the band at later reunion gigs.
Between King Crimson and Foreigner, McDonald appeared on four of the best-selling albums of the 1969-79 period.
As a session musician, he played on T-Rex’s 1971 single Get It On. He also collaborated with Fairport Convention co-founder Judy Dyble (who was also briefly a member of King Crimson), Steve Hackett and Asia.
McDonald released his first solo album, Driver’s Eyes, in 1999, which included contributions from Hackett and Peter Frampton. In 2017, he formed the group Honey West, which counts his son, Maxwell, among its members.
McDonald was born in 1946 in Osterley, Middlesex. He played guitar as a teenager and developed his musical sense while serving five years in the British Army as a musician, where he learned clarinet, flute, saxophone and musical notation. His love of big band jazz morphed into a love of rock ‘n’ roll, which, he told Billboard magazine in 2017, “didn’t feel like a big leap to me. There There was a great energy there that attracted me”.
Reflecting on his career at Billboard, he said, “I find it difficult to process time in terms of years, weeks, and months. I mean, it’s 40 years for Foreigner, almost 50 years for King Crimson – but it feels like milliseconds. It’s still good work. »