Michael Fonfara, Keyboardist For Lou Reed and Foreigner, Dies

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Michael Fonfara

Michael Fonfara, a keyboardist for Lou Reed, Foreigner, and others, died on January 8, 2021, due to complications from his two-year battle with cancer. The news was revealed January 10, 2021, by his publicist, Eric Alper. Fonfara passed at age 74 in a Toronto hospital.

Born in Stevensville, ON, Canada in 1946, the former Lou Reed keyboardist/bandleader appeared on nine of Reed’s albums between 1974 and 2005, including his highest charting U.S. album (#10) Sally Can’t Dance, as well as Rock and Roll Heart, Street Hassle, The Bells (which Fonfara executive produced) and 1980’s Growing Up in Public (co-written and co-produced by Fonfara).

Fonfara performed on British-American rock band Foreigner’s hugely successful 1981 album 4, produced by Mutt Lange, including their Top 5 Hot 100 hit “Urgent.”

He also recorded with the Everly Brothers, Rough Trade, Rhinoceros, Electric Flag and was a current and 30-year plus member of Canadian blues legends Downchild. Three of the band’s songs are included in the 1978 album Briefcase Full of Blues from Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s the Blues Brothers.

“He’s the best musician I`ve ever worked with,” said Downchild leader and co-founder Donnie Walsh. Bassist Gary Kendall added, “We lost a brother, a band mate, a co-writer and a dear friend. If you met him, you loved him. A creative genius.”

Watch Downchild perform in 2015

Fonfara’s final recording was Downchild’s Live At the Toronto Jazz Festival, recorded at their 50th Anniversary party in 2019, where he performed live alongside special guests Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer, David Wilcox, Kenny Neal, Gene Taylor and Erja Lyytinen. The new album was released on October 16, 2020.

Michael Fonfara is survived by his wife Avril, his daughters Ashley and Ciara and his grandchildren Brooklyn, Camden, Jamie, and Jaxon.

Related: Musicians we lost in 2020

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