Stars pay tribute to Suffolk humourist Neil Innes
PUBLISHED: 12:56 30 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:16 30 December 2019
Tributes have been paid to Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band founder, Monty Python collaborator and long-time Suffolk resident Neil Innes, who has died at the age of 75.
The Essex-born comedian and musician moved to Suffolk in 1979 and lived in Debenham for many years.
He made his name working with the Monty Python team and later in the Beatles spoof band The Rutles.
In a statement, his family said: "It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29th December 2019.
"We have lost a beautiful kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all.
"He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain.
"His wife Yvonne and their three sons Miles, Luke and Barney and three grandchildren Max Issy and Zac give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all."
Stars from the world of comedy paid tribute to him on Twitter after his death was announced today.
John Cleese said: "Utterly dismayed to hear about Neil Innes. Right out of the blue... A very sweet man, much too nice for his own good. Lovely writer and performer."
The Monty Python star went on: "When he worked with Python on our stage show, I listened every night to "How sweet to be an Idiot" on the tannoy.
Mark Gatiss of the League of Gentlemen team said: "As a Python-obsessed teen I saw him at Darlington Arts Centre & missed my bus home to catch his brilliance. I used to record 'The Innes Book of Records' on C-60s & marvel at his talent. I still hum 'I like Cezanne, says Anne'. Sweet dreams, sweet idiot."
Stand-up comedian and writer Richard Herring said: "Really sad to hear about Neil Innes. Punch in the gut to end the decade on. RIP to the sweetest of idiots."
Fellow comic Diane Morgan added: "One of the nicest people I've ever met and a towering talent."
Neil Innes was born in Danbury, near Chelmsford, the son of a soldier.
He attended Norwich Art School then studied drama at Goldsmiths College in London in the mid-1960s.
It was at Goldsmiths that he founded the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band with Vivian Stanshall, which enjoyed a number of hits in the late 60s including the 1968 song I'm The Urban Spaceman for which Innes won an Ivor Novello award.
In the 1970s he performed and penned songs and sketches for Monty Pythons' final TV series after John Cleese temporarily left.
He also wrote songs for Monty Python And The Holy Grail and appeared in their cult classic Life Of Brian film and Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky before joining with Eric Idle on the sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, about a fictional low-budget regional TV station.
This spawned The Rutles, a parody film of the The Beatles in which Neil Innes played the character of Ron Nasty, a pastiche of John Lennon.
In the 1980s he was prominent in children's entertainment, voicing The Raggy Dolls cartoon series for which he also composed the music, as well as Puddle Lane, The Riddles and Tumbledown Farm.
In recent years, he worked alongside fellow Suffolk artists Matthew Townsend and Graham Baker to produce a musical rendition of The Rake's Return or Ipso Facto.