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Kevin Ayers

Yet another sad and premature loss today, with the news that Kevin Ayers has died, aged 68.

He was one of the first performers I saw live, in 1971, at one of the legendary Clitheroe Pop festivals, with a very youthful Mike Oldfield on bass... in an incarnation of the Whole World similar to the one featured, splendidly, here.

An endearing combination of wit, style and imagination, all wrapped up in the quintessentially English act of never seeming to try too hard.

The Soft Machine were never quite the same without him. His early run of solo albums on Harvest are deeply collectable: some lovely songs in beautiful sleeves. The next stage, on Island, was also memorable - as was an energising return to live performance at the end of the 90s with a young prog band, the Wizards of Twiddly.

He had the taste and good fortune to collaborate with a host of great performers - from Robert Wyatt to Lol Coxhill, Ollie Halsall to Nico - and wrote a host of fine songs.

I'm off to raise a glass of red wine now and listen to some of the old stuff.

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