Gentle Giant bassist and songwriter Ray Shulman has died at the age 73
Tuesday 04 April 2023
His brother and bandmate confirmed.
Lead vocalist Derek Shulman co-founded the British prog group in 1970 with siblings Phil and Ray – the youngest of the three – after having previously worked together in Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.
“I am deeply saddened to announce that my younger brother and my best friend, Ray Shulman, passed away on March 30th at his home in London,” Derek wrote to Facebook. “I was with him until the end as he bravely battled a long illness. At least I know he is now at peace. Ray really was a genius in so many ways. He was such a kind and caring soul. He was an incredible composer, musician, music producer and tech wizard. He was a true artist and preferred to stay in the background and let his body of work speak for him rather than talk about himself.”
Hailed as a bassist’s bassist, Ray projected an influence beyond the success of the compositionally complex Gentle Giant, who released 11 albums between 1970 and ’80. His work was often compared to that of Yes counterpart Chris Squire. “It was hard to get a mass audience into that kind of sophisticated arrangement,” Ray said in a 2014 interview. “We always wanted to grow the audience. We were very aware that our early stuff was quite sophisticated. In a certain way, you almost needed to be a musician to understand it.
“A lot of our contemporaries were crossing over to a more mainstream audience. That must have been on our minds at the time, but there was always something holding us back. We could never quite fully do it. Even though on the surface, we’d write a kind of commercial song, we’d always have to throw in something weird to entertain ourselves. But unfortunately, that also alienated the mass audience. It was never meant to be a mass audience kind of music. It should have just remained part of the underground, really.”
Following Gentle Giant’s demise Derek became an A&R exec who signed Bon Jovi, Pantera and Dream Theater among others. Meanwhile, Ray’s later works included producing pop and indie artists, remixing other musicians’ work, and creating DVD visuals for Jethro Tull, Steven Wilson and more.
"I remember Ray fondly for the many tours we did with Giant in the '70s," Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson recalled in a statement. "He will be missed greatly by fellow professionals in the music industry and by all fans of Gentle Giant."
“He will be deeply missed by the music community as a whole,” Derek said in closing his social media tribute (below). “More importantly, I will miss him as my brother and truly my best friend. He leaves behind his wife Barbara Tanner and his older brother Philip. To all who knew Ray or know of him, ‘Think of him with kindness.’”