David Longdon, the frontman and multi-instrumentalist with British prog rock band Big Big Train, has died aged 56.
Longdon died in a Nottingham hospital on 20 November following an accident, the group said in a statement. No further details were shared.
The band’s bassist and founder Greg Spawton said: “It is unspeakably cruel that a quirk of fate in the early hours of yesterday morning has deprived him and his loved ones of a happy future together and all of the opportunities, both personal and musical, that awaited him next year and beyond.”
Steve Hackett, former guitarist with Genesis, paid tribute to Longdon: “He was a lovely guy and had a wonderful voice. He sounded fabulous singing on the vocal version of [Hackett’s song] Spectral Mornings.” Neal Morse of prog rock band Spock’s Beard, the group Marillion and Geoffrey Downes of Yes were also among those to pay their respects.
Big Big Train formed in Bournemouth in 1990. When lead singer Sean Filkins and drummer Steve Hughes left the group in 2009, Longdon joined alongside Nick D’Virgilio, then drummer with Spock’s Beard.
“It is as if we’ve known each other for years,” he told Dusk. “The creative ideas flow quickly between us and we’re old enough to appreciate that there is something very special not only concerning the music we’re making but also the chemistry between us.”
He described joining the band as a turning point. “Until joining Big Big Train in 2009, I didn’t think the music stuff was going to happen,” he told Northern Life. “You get to a certain point and you think ‘OK, that’s it, it’s all gone!’”
Their 2009 album The Underfall’s Yard marked Longdon’s first on-record appearance with the band. In 2019, he won male vocalist of the year in Prog Magazine’s readers’ poll for his work on the Big Big Train album Grand Tour.
Their latest album, this year’s Common Ground, was about realising how much we need other people, he told Progarchy. “How we aren’t islands; we are sociable creatures. We do need each other, to a greater or a lesser extent; we depend on each other.”
Longdon also features on the forthcoming Big Big Train record Welcome to the Planet, due for release in January 2022. The band said Longdon had been working on a new solo album at the time of his death.
Born in Nottingham, Longdon grew up listening to classical music, country and opera. Discovering the Who aged nine inspired him to start writing his own music. He played keyboards, acoustic and electric six and 12-string guitars, bass guitar, flute, mandolin, accordion, percussion, dulcimer and psaltery.
He formed a number of groups, including O’ Strange Passion and the Gift Horse, and played in the band of French chamber pop musician Louis Philippe. In 1996, he unsuccessfully auditioned to be lead singer in Genesis following the departure of Phil Collins.
As well as recording with Big Big Train, Longdon released solo albums and also collaborated with the Charlatans, prog rock group the Tangent and Sound of Contact co-founder Dave Kerzner.
In 2020, Longdon and Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble collaborated under the name Dyble Longdon for the album Between a Breath and a Breath, released shortly after Dyble’s death from lung cancer.
Longdon described the project as “a serious undertaking” given her health condition and their knowledge that it would probably be her final recording: “I’m proud of it; I think some of the songs I worked on with Judy are some of my best work.
Longdon is survived by his partner, Sarah Ewing, and his daughters Amelia and Eloise. In an interview this summer, Longdon recalled writing the new Big Big Train song Common Ground about getting together with Ewing after a period of personal uncertainty, in the chalk hills and among the standing stones of Avebury in Wiltshire.
“We were standing at this monument at a point where we realised we’d come together as a couple,” he told Progarchy. “This time in my life – I’m now 56. It’s time to get on it, because we don’t have forever! … It’s not about ‘will we find it?’ It’s: ‘You’d better find it and get on with it, because … we don’t get forever.’”
The band said it would issue a further statement about its 2022 concerts – including their long-delayed debut US tour – and other activities in due course.