Ian McDonald, founding member of King Crimson and Foreigner, dies

Ian McDonald, the multi-instrumentalist who was a founding member of King Crimson and Foreigner, has died aged 75.

McDonald’s death was confirmed by press release, which noted that the rocker “passed away peacefully on February 9, 2022 at his New York home surrounded by his family.”

McDonald co-founded King Crimson in 1968, alongside Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake and lyricist Peter Sinfield. The debut album of the famous progressive rock band, At the Court of the Crimson Kingwas released in 1969. McDonald’s fingerprints were all over the LP, with saxophone, flute, clarinet, mellotron, harpsichord, piano, organ, vibraphone, backing vocals and production among his contributions.

“When we did this – and I was basically at the forefront of production – I wanted to make sure that if I could deliver everything that was on the record, it would withstand repeated listenings and hopefully- the, would stand the test of time,” McDonald recalled during a 2019 interview with UCR.

“Those early shows were fantastic,” he continued, reflecting on King Crimson’s early days. “It was a mixture of arranged songs and group improvisations. One of the songs [Donovan’s] “Get Thy Bearings” was a vehicle for improvisation. … They could be quite adventurous, sometimes quite wild. And arranged songs such as “The Court of the Crimson King” and “Epitaph” were more structured. Speaking of Epitaph, I think it’s my favorite hit song in terms of writing, structure, production and everything else.

The multi-instrumentalist left the band after their first US tour. The final performance featuring the original lineup of King Crimson was at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on December 16, 1969.

“I used to say, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have left Crimson when I did. But I don’t think that way anymore,” the rocker admitted to UCR. “I believe it was meant to be, because a lot of wonderful things happened because of me. Maybe I should have stayed for the second album [In the Wake of Poseidon], but then things would have been different in my life and so on. But you can’t change history like that. So I accept where I am and the journey I’ve been on since leaving Crimson.

Years later, McDonald would help launch another legendary act, Foreigner. The band’s initial lineup included guitarist Mick Jones, vocalist Lou Gramm, drummer Dennis Elliott, keyboardist Al Greenwood and bassist Ed Gagliardi, with McDonald providing rhythm guitar, woodwinds and additional keyboard. The multi-instrumentalist’s tenure lasted until 1980 and included three hugely successful multi-platinum records: Foreigner, Double vision and head games. ‘Feels Like the First Time’, ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Hot Blooded’ and ‘Double Vision’ are just a few of the classic tunes McDonald’s plays on, while the rocker also co-wrote many of the tracks. band’s deepest album.

Decades later, McDonald attended sporadic reunions featuring the surviving original members of Foreigner in 2017 and 2018, an experience he later admitted “feels really good.”

Even when not enlisted in formal band formation, McDonald proved to be an in-demand session musician. T. Rex, Steve Hackett and Asia are just a few of the bands he has collaborated with over his long and impressive career.

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