Friday, September 4, 2009

Farewell Guy Babylon (December 20, 1956 – September 2, 2009)



It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of Guy Babylon, keyboard player in the Elton John band. Guy died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, September 2. He suffered a sudden heart attack while swimming in the pool.

Elton, who is on holiday in Nice, France, said the following when he heard the news:
"I am devastated and heartbroken at the death of Guy Babylon. Guy played over 1000 shows with me, and we worked together on The Road To El Dorado, Aida, Billy Elliot, Lestat and Gnomeo and Juliet, as well as on countless albums.
"He was one of the most brilliant musicians I ever knew, a true genius, a gentle angel - and I loved him so much. David and I send our deep condolences to Kathy, Max, Ben and Jessica, to Guy's parents, to Kathy's parents and to all his immediate loved ones."

Keyboardist/composer Guy Babylon was born on 20 December, 1956 in Maryland, USA. He moved to California in 1980, six months after graduating from the University of South Florida, and became a respected session musician in Los Angeles.

Over the next number of years, Guy composed music for radio, TV and cable shows, doing demo work for bands and songwriters, and putting together a home studio in North Hollywood. During that time he played with acts as diverse as Iron Butterfly and Tavares, and was a member of the band Ashton, which also included future Elton John bassist, Bob Birch.

Guy's career accelerated in March 1987 when he won Keyboard Magazine's Reader Tape Contest with his entry, Babylon Bleu. Also in 1987, Guy co-wrote and performed on Siedah Garrett's K.I.S.S.I.N.G., which became a Number One dance hit in the US.

It was also around this time that Guy first met Elton's guitarist and band leader, Davey Johnstone.

More than a year after playing keyboards on a side project of Davey's, Guy got a call from the guitarist asking if he was interested in playing some live shows as Elton's second keyboardist, joining Fred Mandel. He said he'd be happy to.

Guy's first performance with Elton was for a benefit at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles in July 1988, and his first world tour as part of the Elton John Band began two months later in Miami, Florida.

Guy became lead keyboardist on May 26, 1992, and has been the only synth man on stage since the Walden Woods Benefit Concert in the fall of 1993.

Guy also created musical intros to some of the tour's opening numbers, including Bennie And The Jets (1989), Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, (1992) and Pinball Wizard (1993), and reinterpreted the synthesizer intro to Funeral For A Friend for the live shows.

Guy's first studio work with Elton was on the 1989 album Sleeping With The Past. Other albums he performed on since then are The One, Duets, The Lion King, Made In England, Love Songs, The Big Picture, Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida, Peachtree Road, The Captain And The Kid and The Red Piano, as well as other one-off projects.

Guy began writing orchestral arrangements for Elton's material with the song Man, from the album Made In England, and subsequently arranged all but one of the songs on Peachtree Road.

Guy won a Grammy Award in 2001 for his work arranging the stage musical Aida.

He served as the Musical Supervisor, Orchestrator, and Synth Programmer for the musical Lestat, which opened on Broadway in April 2006, also worked on The Muse, The Road To El Dorado, Billy Elliot The Musical and Gnomeo and Juliet

Guy played 1,351 shows with Elton throughout his 21-year career as a member of the Elton John Band.

- eltonjohn.com

3 comments:

Christian said...

): So sad. how will he be replaced

Anonymous said...

I was shocked to just hear this sad, sad news...
I was on Guy' swim team at USF -
I remembering going to his apt. to have a few beers and listen to him play keyboard by ear...
Jack Gibbs, myself, and Mike Kemper were almost rebuking him for not being a music major....
He could not read music and yet could play amazingly well 'by ear'
so needless to say I was extremely excited to find out years later that he went on to a degree in music composition....
but so saddened to learn of his death and ironically in a pool - where I new him best... national caliber breaststoker and IM'er!
You are sooo missed Guy!
Tom McD. / Gloucester

Kathleen Shannon said...

I dated Guy for awhile before he met Kathy. I stayed in touch for awhile after they got married. Kathy was always so kind to me and we had some good conversations over the phone. Guy was such an amazing person as well as a great musician. He was so dedicated to his craft, he didn't indulge in any of the party substances other rockers fall into. I always thought of him as a great athlete in music, so focused on becoming better at what he did and how he wanted his career to go. I was happy he found a mate that understood and could share in his passion. He told me she was a singer for Pia Zidora when he met her and she was also a songwriter. When he was discovered and hired by Elton John, through Elton's blond lead guitarist who used him as a session man, I thought how his dreams were coming true, but I also thought how Elton was lucky to have Guy in his band, as he was such a kind and honest person and a very hard worker. I knew he would give his all for the band. I remember when he was working for Mike Pinar in the Blues Image band and he would show up for work and Mike would be MIA. Sadly, I never got to see Guy in the Elton John band as he had too many relatives on Kathy's side to get me a ticket and backstage pass, but I saw him on TV a few times briefly. The camera guy never seemed to train his lens on Guy very much, although he was a super handsome man. I thought it must be because they were both keyboardists and they want to focus on the star. But the last time I saw him on TV, he had a grey streak in his hair, and it pulled on my heart strings to see him aging. I was going to contact him and Kathy a few years ago when I recorded and published a children's song, for advice on promoting it, and I told my friend Kelly in England how I might ask Guy for a ticket to see him (impossible to get a normal priced ticket for us little people, you have to buy an expensive ticket through a broker, as they sell out instantly- believe me, I tried) and my friend looked him up on the internet and said, I'm sorry to have to tell you, but Guy has died. I was so shocked because his death in a swimming pool was such a rocker's death as in Brian Jones, and I knew he had attended university in Florida on a swimmers scholarship. I remembered as well he used like to swim in the Pacific Ocean. I was devastated to think of his family missing him and too shy to contact Kathy about it, but my heart went out to them. I didn't know they had had another son after Max, Ben who is doing so well in his own band now, although he is so young! And Kathy is their manager! So Guy's life goes on through them. I know Guy is alive in the afterlife, having a great time with his musician friends there and still keeping a watch over his family. I talk to him often and have seen him in my dreams over the years, as my friend. I know from his best friend Jeff that he didn't have very many girlfriends in his life, as he was so dedicated to his craft, so I know I was special to him as well. Kathy was so lucky to have found such a good man as he, and I am happy for Guy that he accomplished so much, even more than he dreamed was possible, in his life. I remember he told me his dream was to write a musical score for a movie, and he did that. Bless you Guy and bless you Elton and Ben and Kathy for keeping the memory of Guy vital and vibrant. I can say for sure he appreciates it and knows everything that you do. Kathleen Shannon in Laguna Niguel, CA