Just weeks after the passing of Uriah Heep’s drummer Lee Kerslake, the British quintet’s co-founding songwriter and keyboardist Ken Hensley passed away on November 4 at the age of 75. The group’s sole remaining original co-founder, guitarist Mick Box, told Goldmine, “I am in deep shock at the news that Ken has passed away, and my sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica. Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever. R.I.P. Ken.”
Ken Hensley was a friend of Goldmine, most recently quoted on page 29 of our new Goldmine December 2020 issue’s In Memoriam section, which begins with our tribute to Lee Kerslake. For that article, Ken shared with us, “Lee and I were friends for over fifty years, and we worked together for much of that time in The Gods and in Uriah Heep. Our relationship was rooted in our hearts and in our joint desire to achieve everything possible in our musical lives, and we did that. We traveled the world, selling millions of albums and concert tickets. We created music that will live far longer than any of us. All of our dreams came true and we re-lived a lot of them before Lee finally lost his battle with cancer on September 19th at the age of 73. I miss him now and I will miss him more with the passing of time, but we will have the joy he created in his songs and music for as long as we live.”
After his time in The Gods and Toe Fat, Ken was in Uriah Heep from 1969 through 1980. Ken not only wrote the classic fan favorite “Gyspy” for the group’s debut album, but he also wrote that album’s liner notes, describing every song, and that trend continued with subsequent albums.
In 1971, Ken co-wrote “July Morning” with the band’s lead singer David Byron, who left the group at the end of 1975. John Lawton, from the band Lucifer’s Friend, became the band’s new lead singer and performed this lengthy classic, not only live with Uriah Heep for years, but has performed Ken’s composition on July 1 many times in Bulgaria, on the country’s Independence Day. In recent years, Ken and John played with the Bulgarian band B.T.R. and Ken toured with Bulgaria’s Sunrize.
In 1972, Ken’s fast paced composition “Easy Livin,” with his swirling organ playing, gave Uriah Heep their U.S. Top 100 debut, peaking at No. 39, from their album Demons and Wizards, with the album’s cover artwork by Roger Dean. That creative look continued with the next album at the end of that year, The Magician’s Birthday.
In early 1973, both sides of Uriah Heep’s single from The Magician’s Birthday album reached the U.S. Top 100. “Sweet Lorraine” was on the A side and the flip side was “Blind Eye,” with Ken’s poetic lyrics starting the song, “Stranger than the sunrise, darker than the night, fiercer than a rainstorm, this is man’s delight.”
Flip side: Blind Eye
A side: Sweet Lorraine
Top 100 debut: January 20, 1973
Peak position: No. 91 – A side / No. 97 flip side
Later in 1973, Uriah Heep charted in the U.S. Top 100 for a final time with Ken’s “Stealin’,” which became another concert favorite. In the early 1980s, Ken became a member of the Jacksonville, Florida band Blackfoot for their albums Siogo and Vertical Smiles.