Monty Python collaborator and Rutles singer Neil Innes has died at the age of 75, his agent has confirmed.
The comedian and musician died unexpectedly last night, Nigel Morton told the PA news agency. He had not been ill.
A statement released on behalf of his family said: “It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on December 29 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.”
Innes wrote music for Monty Python’s albums including Monty Python’s Previous Record and The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief, and performed and penned songs and sketches for the Pythons’ final TV series in 1974 after John Cleese temporarily left.
He also wrote songs for Monty Python And The Holy Grail, appeared in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and toured the UK and Canada with the group.
He was one of only two non-Pythons to be credited as a writer for the TV series, alongside Douglas Adams.
After Python’s original run on TV came to an end, he joined Eric Idle on the sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, about a fictional low-budget regional TV station.
This show spawned the band The Rutles, a spoof of The Beatles, in which Innes played the character of Ron Nasty, who was based on John Lennon.
He was also a member of the band The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, whose song I’m The Urban Spaceman won him an Ivor Novello award.
He penned the song Death Cab For Cutie, which inspired an American band of the same name, and was used in The Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour, and starred in the TV series The Innes Book Of Records.
Innes became a fixture in children’s entertainment in the 1980s when he voiced The Raggy Dolls and he also composed music for the show, as well as Puddle Lane, The Riddles and Tumbledown Farm.
Actor and writer Mark Gatiss paid tribute to him, writing on Twitter: “Neil Innes has gone. As a Python-obsessed teen I saw him at Darlington Arts Centre & missed my bus home to catch his brilliance.
“I used to record ‘The Innes Book of Records’ on C-60s & marvel at his talent. I still hum ‘I like Cezanne, says Anne’. Sweet dreams, sweet idiot.”
Comedian Diane Morgan added: “Fairwell Neil Innes. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met and a towering talent.”