The funeral of Gary Brooker MBE was a private affair, taking
place at Guildford Crematorium on 23 March 2022 at 12.45 pm.
to his fellow musicians and Procol entourage, many friends and colleagues from different spheres of Gary's life paid tribute.
Here is the eulogy delivered by charismatic British entrepreneur John Caulcutt.
Reading through the many letters of condolence – and there have been many – there is a recurring theme of a kind-hearted, considerate, caring man, in every sense of the word: not just in terms of his generosity of spirit, his big-heartedness, his openness and honesty, his loyalty, but his being there when it mattered; and finally his courage in adversity. Gary was a larger-than-life character and a good friend to all of us here today, and to the many people around the world whose lives he touched.
Somebody wrote that he was the most agreeable of men … and he was, wasn’t he? Resolutely English, defiantly traditional, kind, considerate and with his own unique sense of humour … a man who made light of even the darkest moments.
His support for various charities and good causes was nothing short of incredible, where he gave freely of his time and talent, raising millions of pounds in the process. In short, he enriched the lives of many: not only in the world of music, but in the charity sector in general. And we will be the poorer now that he has cast off for the last time.
Gary was totally trusted by his peer group, and that trust in turn enabled him to assemble world-class musicians to join him on stage at the various charity events that he supported.
Throughout his entire life his integrity was his trademark – he understood the meaning of ‘my word is my bond’ and was brought up in the days when a handshake on a deal meant everything.
When the lovely Margo Buchanan (here today) – who nominated Gary for an MBE – went through the many thank you letters from charities (a requirement to support a nomination) she was able to discard a high proportion of them … because there were just too many to send … so she went right to the top, to no other than Sir George Martin, who immediately and without hesitation said ‘yes’ to supporting Gary’s nomination.
From the Chiddingfold Working Men’s Club annual Christmas event, where he played for many years with Dave Gilmour, Eric Clapton and Andy Fairweather Low to name but a few, to the stellar performances at Wintershall in aid of the Heart and Stroke Trust at Guildford Hospital where once again he was joined by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Roger Taylor and Mike Rutherford, to the Sunflower Jam at Portchester Hall in London, to Alexandra Palace for the British Lung Foundation, to the many charity events that he so generously did for me culminating at the O2 in March 2020 for the Music for the Marsden cancer charity raising £1.3m on the night (sadly the last time that Gary played). Gary had a pivotal role in putting on this concert, and quite genuinely I couldn’t have done it without him.
From a farm trailer at a local village fete to the O2 arena, he was always there for me and I remember quite clearly the first gig that we did together in the Isle of Wight all those years ago. It was actually at the time of the horse-meat crisis … remember that? When dodgy restaurants were selling horse-meat as beef and we went down to a local hotel at Yarmouth and both ordered one of their special house burgers. I remember having to put ketchup and mustard on mine, then passing the condiments to Gary, saying to him ‘What would he like on his?’. He smiled and replied ‘A fiver each way’!
Then there was the concert in India after the tsunami in 2004, and we were raising money to build replacement fishing boats for the ones that had been lost in the gigantic waves that battered the eastern seaboard around the area of Nagapatanam. Gary had a unique ability to transcend the artificial barriers of culture, class, language or age, and he spent a day with the fishermen listening intently and sympathetically to stories of how their livelihood had been wiped out through the tsunami. Being a keen fisherman himself, he had an inherent interest in what they did – but above all he had a kindness and generosity beyond words, which in turn gave inspiration to the very people that we were trying to help. One of them wrote to me recently, on hearing of Gary’s passing, and I would like to share with you what he wrote: ‘What we saw in him was his commitment to help with the fisherman folks … he was so humble and spent a lot of time interacting with them, and was instrumental in getting them new boats … his dedication towards the needy was inspirational’. He then finished by saying ‘The song may be ended, but the melody lingers on.’
But Gary was also a man of the world who knew that life wasn’t given as a freehold. It’s a leasehold for all of us, and Gary optimised that lease in every sense of the word and I feel very privileged, indeed humbled, to be asked to say a few words about him and his many achievements today.
I am sure that, like me, you feel that when Gary left us, a little bit of all of us left with him, and that we will be the poorer without him. There is always a sadness in parting, but Gary’s life was a full one, and certainly one to celebrate here today.
So there we have it: a life so well-lived, and packed with so many good deeds, that he could truly be said to have lived twice. In short, he will be irreplaceable – they really don’t make them like Gary Brooker any more.
All of us here will have our own special memories of Gary and we collectively gain strength in coming to terms with our loss by being together today and supporting Franky, for whom he had such unbounded love.
Gary taught us many things, but particularly that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass: it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
Gary Brooker's page at 'Beyond the Pale' | Official obituary page | Funeral index | More features at BtP