Ken Hensley, Uriah Heep Founding Member, Dies at 75

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Ken Hensley (Photo via Trevor Hensley on Facebook)

Ken Hensley, a founding member and prominent songwriter for the British rock band Uriah Heep, died November 4, 2020. The news was revealed the next day by his brother, Trevor Hensley. The veteran keyboardist and singer, who turned 75 on August 24, wrote much of the hard rock band’s material including “Easy Livin’,” “Lady in Black,” “Stealin’,” and “Look at Yourself.”

Trevor Hensley wrote, “My brother Ken Hensley passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening. His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us. We are all devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss and ask that you please give us some space and time to come to terms with it.”

Uriah Heep has been described as one of the “big four” rock bands to emerge from Great Britain in the late ’60s, along with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. The band evolved from a group called Spice which was formed by guitarist Mick Box. In early 1970, and now as Uriah Heep, Hensley was there at the beginning as they made their recording debut in 1970 with the album …Very ‘Eavy … Very ‘Umble. The group’s heyday was in the mid-’70s when they earned several Gold albums in the U.S. and Silver LPs in their native U.K. Their lone Top 40 single success was 1972’s “Easy Livin’.”  They’ve sold a reported 40+ million albums worldwide.

On October 30, Uriah Heep was celebrated with a 50th anniversary boxed set. In the announcement, Hensley wrote, “Sitting here, just a few days from my 75th birthday, it’s easy for me to flash back 50 years to when… we were on to something big and amazing! The box is a perfect tribute to a band that achieved what so few have done, to Mickie and the boys who keep the legend rolling and of course, to all of you who made it possible.”

This ad appeared in the May 12, 1973, issue of Record World. Hensley is at center in the top row

Upon hearing the news, Box, the band’s sole remaining original member, wrote, “We may not have always been the best of friends, but there were some wonderful times we shared too, which are the ones I will always remember.

“Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever.

“His communication through lyrics and melody have stood the test of time, and with the power and chemistry of the band bringing those songs to life, we achieved success we could only have dreamed of. My sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica and may he rest in peace.”

Watch them perform “The Wizard,” co-written by Hensley and Mark Clarke

The band’s classic lineup is considered to be Box, frontman David Byron, Hensley, drummer Lee Kerslake and bass guitarist Gary Thain. Hensley departed in 1980, and ultimately played in several other bands, including Blackfoot.

Kerslake died on Sept. 19, 2020.

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2020

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  1. onnha
    #1 onnha 6 November, 2020, 08:53

    When I think of Uriah Heep some songs stand out as classics. Salisbury. Tears in my eyes. Look at yourself. July Morning. Wizard. High Priestess. Lady in Black. One could go on and on with a list of classics. So sorry for the loss of Mr Hensley.

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    • Gabeezlebub
      Gabeezlebub 30 November, 2020, 21:04

      I have about 12 of Uriah Heep’s albums, 2 of David Byron’s and “Proud Words On a Dusty Shelf” by Ken Hensley, so you could say I kind of liked them. My favorite band of all time.
      Shocked at the loss of Ken Hensley. One of the best!!!
      Well said Onnha.

      Reply this comment
  2. Nikolay
    #2 Nikolay 23 May, 2021, 04:29

    I grew up with his songs.
    Uriah Heep use to be favorite band, that time I was living in Russia.
    Despite living behind the wall we knew that great music.
    I’m crying, Tears in my eyes.

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