Denny Laine, the original lead singer of the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney’s co-founder/guitarist in Wings, died December 5 after a short battle with Interstitial lung disease. He was 79.
“I was at his bedside holdings his hand as I played his favorite Christmas songs for him,” his wife Elizabeth Hines wrote in a statement. “My world will never be the same. Denny was an amazingly wonderful person, so loving and sweet to me. He made my days colorful, fun, and full of life – just like him.”
Laine grew up in Birmingham, England, and formed Denny Laine and the Diplomats with future Electric Light Orchestra drummer Bev Bevan as a teenager. But he didn’t find success until 1964, when he joined forces with Ray Thomas and Mike Ponder to form the Moody Blues. They started as a blues cover band on the London club scene, but they moved over to pop music after just a few months. In late 1964, they recorded a cover of the Bessie Banks song “Go Now” featuring Laine on lead vocals and guitar.
The song charted worldwide and hit No. One in England, but Laine quit the band shortly after the release of their 1965 debut LP, The Magnificent Moodies, because of a conflict with their record label. “They wanted us to stay out on the road and make some money,” Laine told North Coast Music Beat. “Like every other band, we got ripped off. We got the fame, but we didn’t get the money.”
In 1971, he teamed up with Paul and Linda McCartney to form Wings. He’d known McCartney since the early days of the Moody Blues when they toured with the Beatles, and he’d seen him open up for Jimi Hendrix a few years earlier. “That inspired him to call me because he wanted to do something new and different,” Laine told Mass Live in 2019, “And Wings was formed. We then went up to Scotland away from the public and press and played together and worked on material for the first Wings album called Wild Life and eventually we became a touring band.”
Laine spent the rest of the Seventies touring and recordings with Wings, helping them craft classic songs like “Live and Let Die,” “Jet,” “Silly Love Songs,” and “Band on the Run.” He co-wrote 1977’s “Mull of Kintyre” with McCartney. The group arguably reached the zenith of their creativity in 1973 with Band on the Run. “Me and Paul, we had the same influences musically and had known each other since the ’60s,” Laine told Billboard earlier this year. “It was just easy. It was easy to get a good groove on each other’s songs, and I think that’s what made the album popular.”
Wings split in 1981 after Paul McCartney was arrested in Japan for marijuana possession while on tour. Laine continued working with McCartney on his early 1980s solo albums Tug of War and Pipes of Peace, but they splintered apart due to business disputes. In the years that followed, Laine cut a series of solo albums, and he toured heavily. In recent years, he played a series of special shows where he played Band on the Run in full.
In 2018, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Moody Blues after he was initially left off the list of inductees. “I thought [the rest of the band] deserved it because of the amount of work and the popularity, and I thought that’s the way it goes,” he told Billboard. “Obviously, I’m very pleased I’m going to be in there. It’s an honor. I think I’m at least a little part of their story, so I feel very content, really, that it’s all come full circle now.”