Dec 29, 2019: Neil Innes, of Bonzo Dog Band/Rutles/Python Fame, Dies at 75

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The Rutles, with Neil Innes as Ron Nasty at left

British comedian and musician Neil Innes, best known as a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a collaborator with Monty Python, and a member of the Beatles parody act The Rutles, died Dec. 29, 2019, of a heart attack. He was 75.

Monty Python’s John Cleese paid tribute to Innes, calling him, “A very sweet man, much too nice for his own good.”

Innes’ death came unexpectedly—he had been traveling home from France and had not been ill. His family issued the following statement:

“It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29 December 2019. We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all. He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain. His wife Yvonne and their three sons, Miles, Luke and Barney, and three grandchildren, Max, Issy and Zac, give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.”

According to the Facebook page of Liverpool’s famous Cavern club, Innes had been booked to perform at the venue in 2020.

Innes, whose Twitter page describes him as an “Ego Warrior, Style Guru & Fantasist. Idiot Bastard Band. Ex Bonzo, Rutle, and Innes Book of Records,” was born Dec. 9, 1944 in Essex, England. Together with Vivian Stanshall he formed the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (later shortened to the Bonzo Dog Band), co-writing many of their best-known songs, including “I’m the Urban Spaceman” (the recording was produced by Paul McCartney) and “Death Cab for Cutie.” Innes played piano and guitar and sang with the Bonzos.

Watch the Bonzo Dog Band perform “I’m the Urban Spaceman”

Following the band’s split, Innes and three other musicians formed a band called the World, then worked in a band called GRIMMS. Neither had much success and by the early ’70s Innes had gone on to work with the comedy troupe Monty Python—although he was never an official member, his association was significant enough that he was often dubbed “the seventh Python.” Innes contributed music to the team’s recordings and their beloved 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He also had roles in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky (1977) and Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979).

Neil Innes – dubbed the “Seventh Python” by his pals in the comedy troupe was a frequent collaborator in their group and solo projects. L-R: Terry Gilliam, Neil Innes, Eric Idle, Terry Jones (Photo: Getty Images; used with permission)

His iconic songs for the comedy troupe – several of which were subsequently incorporated in the hit stage musical Spamalot – include “Knights of the Round Table,” “Brave Sir Robin,” “Arthur’s Song” and “Run Away!”

Along with Python’s Eric Idle, Innes appeared in the mid-’70s on the British TV series Rutland Weekend Television, which spawned The Rutles, a musical/comedy quartet that parodied the Beatles. As the character Ron Nasty, Innes’ role was based on John Lennon, with idle portraying the Paul McCartney-esque character Dirk McQuickly, John Halsey as Barry Wom (Ringo) and Ricky Fataar as Stig O’Hara (George Harrison). A 76-minute film, All You Need is Cash, premiered in 1978 and featured cameos by Harrison, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Paul Simon, Al Franken and others. The film did not fare well in the U.S. ratings-wise but has persevered as a cult favorite; a soundtrack album featured songs closely modeled after favorites by the Beatles.

Watch Innes in drag for his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of childhood governess to his pal, George Harrison, in the 1976 promotional film for “Crackerbox Palace”

In 2010, Innes formed the Idiot Bastard Band.

A film about Innes called The Seventh Python was made in 2008.

Watch the Rutles perform “Get Up and Go,” based on the Beatles’ “Get Back”

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  1. abba2971
    #1 abba2971 31 December, 2019, 16:08

    the rutles “All you need is Cash” is a must, terrific film and soundtrack, recommend purchasing both, i believe the beatles enjoy it as well

    Reply this comment
  2. bradwww
    #2 bradwww 30 December, 2022, 03:07

    poor neil – eric done him wrong every step of the way. won’t even let them put on a tribute concert for him – very sad.

    Reply this comment

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