John Lawton, the singer best known for his work with Uriah Heep, died on June 29 at age 74. No cause has been reported. Lawton was also a member of Lucifer’s Friend and the Les Humphries Singers.
“Contrary to reports, there was no illness involved, which makes his passing incomprehensible,” reads a statement on Uriah Heep’s official website. “He went peacefully with his wife at his side.”
A private service is planned for close friends and family. “John will be greatly missed,” the band posted in tribute on social media. Two other former members of Uriah Heep died last year: drummer Lee Kerslake at 73 and keyboardist Ken Hensley at 75.
Lawton joined Uriah Heep in 1976, replacing original lead singer David Byron as the band prepped its 10th album, Firefly. A year later, on 1977’s Innocent Victim, the group would land its biggest hit, “Free Me.” Though Lawton would leave the band in 1979, he remained on good terms with his former bandmates.
Watch John Lawton Sing ‘Free Me’ With Uriah Heep in 1977
“Music has given wholeness to me,” Lawton said in a 2002 interview. “Everything that’s happened is a wholeness to me, because I’ve done all the things I wanted to. You say, “Oh, I’d like to make a record” – and you make a record; you say, “I’d like to do some live gigs” – so you do some live gigs; “I’d like to have a record in the charts” – so you have a record in the charts; “I’d like to be a No. 1” – so you’ve got number one: “Free Me” went to No. 1; “I’d like to record under my own name” – so you record under your own name. So everything that I wanted to do has come true.”
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.