Moody Blues Founding Member and Flautist Ray Thomas Dead at 76

Moody Blues flautist, singer, and founding member Ray Thomas has died at the age of 76.

The news was confirmed by record label Esoteric Recordings via a post on Facebook. While no cause of death was disclosed, Thomas had previously revealed his battle with prostate cancer in 2014.

With origins in the Birmingham blues and soul scene of the early '60s, Thomas played in a number of groups including El Riot and the Rebels with future Moody Blues member John Lodge. Eventually, Thomas would found the Moody Blues with Mike Pinder, recruiting their classic lineup by 1967 which brought the more elaborate, orchestral sound that would come to define the band's legacy.

This sound—rich with Mellotrons, Thomas' flute, and other unconventional rock instrumentation—set an early bar for what would become Progressive Rock with landmark records like Days of Futures Passed. This classic album includes two Thomas compositions: "The Morning: Another Morning" and "Twilight Time."

Thomas would continue with the Moody Blues until announcing his retirement in 2002 citing health concerns. He released two solo records in the '70s during a hiatus from the band (1975's From Mighty Oaks and 1976's Hopes, Wishes and Dreams) in addition to many other collaborations and credits.

The news follows the announcement that the Moody Blues would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. While Thomas had not played with the group in some time, bassist John Lodge had expressed his hope that Thomas—along with keyboardist Mike Pinder—would be able to rejoin the group for the occasion.

Moody Blues play "Nights in White Satin" in 1968 featuring Thomas' flute solo starting at 2:20.

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