Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bob Birch - Obituary & Tributes


Bob Birch, bass player and backing vocalist in Elton John's band, died yesterday at the age of 56. Following Bob's death, Elton made the following tribute:


“I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch. My heart goes out to Bob’s wife Michele, his son Jonathan and his family. To me Bob was family. He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1400 concerts together. He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note.

I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace.”

Elton John

August 16, 2012

Robert Wayne Birch, July 14, 1956 – August 15, 2012

Bob Birch was bass player and backing vocalist in the Elton John Band for twenty years, performing at 1,441 Elton John concerts and on over 50 studio songs.

He played saxophone, bass and bassoon throughout his school years and graduated from Wayne State University with a performance and education degree. Bob followed up his degree with a one year stint as a music teacher, but he did not find teaching to his liking and decided to move on to bigger things.

In the early 80s, Bob moved to Los Angeles, where his music career began to flourish. He started off playing in local clubs, joining numerous bands and signing various recording deals. It was during this time that he made many of the friends that were to figure prominently in his career, including future Elton John percussionist, John Mahon, who was then playing in a group called The Stickmen.

During this time he also met keyboardist Guy Babylon, and the two became members of the group Ashton. In 1988 Guy joined the Elton John Band as keyboard player, remaining in the band until his untimely death in 2009. In 1991, Bob and Guy joined up with Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and Billy Trudel to form the band Warpipes. The group recorded one album together, Holes in the Heavens.

During his musical career Bob performed live or recorded with many of the greatest artists, including Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Lionel Richie, David Coverdale, Sheryl Crow, Tammy Wynette, Steve Wonder, LeAnn Rimes, Leon Russell and Billy Joel.

In 1992, Musical Director Davey Johnstone asked Bob to join the Elton John band during its tour to promote the album The One. Bob went on to tour with Elton John extensively throughout the world, and also to record the albums Made in England, The Big Picture, One Night Only (live), The Road to El Dorado, Peachtree Road, The Captain And The Kid and the Gnomeo & Juliet soundtrack.

Billy Joel, who has toured extensively with Elton and his band, said of Bob: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch.

He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much."

Bob was the bass player with the longest tenure in the Elton John band, and had just completed a summer tour of Europe with Elton, including the memorable performance at Buckingham Palace in The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert. In September 2012 he was due to start a North American tour with Elton and the band.

Elton John said: “I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch. My heart goes out to Bob’s wife Michele, his son Jonathan and his family.

To me Bob was family. He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1400 concerts together. He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note.

I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace.”

Bob lived in Los Angeles with his wife, Michele, and they had one son, Jonathan.

Legendary bassist Bob Birch, 56, finally at peace, by Michael Anthony Perna.

To quote one of my favorite Elton John songs, "We're crippled and we're dazed. A gardener like that one, no one can replace." Bob Birch was a legendary bass player, a devoted husband, a proud father, a loving son, a kind brother, a family man, a giving person, a loyal band mate, a wise mentor, a true friend and a die hard Detroit Lion's fan. He was also the definition of cool. Bob's smile was contagious. His demeanor was mild. His eyes were bright, but his spirit was even brighter. It would light up not only a room, but an arena as well. Everything he did, he did with the passion and enthusiasm of a teenager, whether it was performing in front of a hundred thousand fans or at home making meatballs and gravy (red sauce for those of you not from back east) for a few lucky friends and family members.

The only thing greater than his genius talent, was his humility. Not many people know that he played not only bass, but every instrument in the band, composed, engineered, produced, taught, mentored and was the one person you could always go to for honest advice and encouragement. Bob was the best at what he did and worked his way up the food chain in the music business to play with the top world class performer of our time, Sir Elton John, and he deserved it. He also played with Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder just to name a few. Those of us lucky enough to have played with him know that we were playing with more than just a great bass player because somehow his spark would always thrust the band to another level. After a tragic accident seventeen years ago when he suffered a broken back and two broken legs, he spent the remaining years of his life fighting to manage his pain and suffering in silence while living an incredibly productive life. He was a true warrior. After fighting the good fight for all those years, on August 15, 2012, his body had finally no more to give. We are devastated at our loss over this past week and only through the strength of the message Bob Birch gave us through his years of giving has afforded us the strength to move forward. I know he would have expected nothing less from us. Bob was full of love. And one of the best definitions of God I know is: God is love.

That tells me that Bob is with God in heaven. He is finally out of pain, and probably on the way to play the Hendrix gig. Bob Birch is survived by his wife Michele and his son Jonathan, a loving family, a host of friends and a world of fans. Donations can be made in the name of Bob Birch to the Elton John Aids Foundation. The world is truly a better place because Bob Birch was in it. I love him and his family and will miss him dearly, but I just feel blessed to have known him at all. Rest in peace brother. Services Sunday August 19th, 2012 at 2:00PM, Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, Simi Valley.

Bernie Taupin: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."

Billy Joel: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch. He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much."

1 comment:

connie said...

Beautiful words about Bob. He will be missed...but he is free from pain once again. Sympathies to his family and friends. Thank you for sharing him with the fans.
Connie Snitker
Cedar Rapids, Iowa