March 27, 2000 – Ian Dury was born in London on May 12th 1942.
At the age of seven, he contracted polio during the 1949 polio epidemic. In 1964 he studied art at the Royal College of Art under British artist Peter Blake, and from 1967 he taught art at various colleges in the south of UK.
Ian formed the band Kilburn & the High Roads in November 1970, he was vocalist and lyricist, co-writing with pianist Russell Hardy. But Ian rose to fame later in the 1970s, during the Punk and New Wave era of rock music, as founder, frontman and lead singer of the British band Ian Dury and the Blockheads, who were amongst the most important groups of the New Wave era in the UK.
As a lyricist, his authorship of popular songs of the time, in particular the single, “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”, was underplayed at the time by critics, though it has been performed and quoted by countless musicians since it was written. Other hits included “What a Waste”, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3”.
In 1999, Ian collaborated with Madness on their first original album in fourteen years on the track “Drip Fed Fred”. Suggs and the band cite him as a great influence. Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ last performance was a charity concert in aid of Cancer BACUP on Feb 6th 2000 at The London Palladium, supported by Kirsty MacColl and Phill Jupitus.
Ian was noticeably ill and had to be helped on and off stage. He died 7 weeks later after a brave battle with cancer at age 57.
Rock & roll has always been populated by fringe figures, cult artists who managed to develop a fanatical following because of their outsized quirks, but few cult rockers have ever been quite as weird, or beloved, as Ian Dury. As the leader of the underappreciated and ill-fated pub rockers Kilburn & the High Roads, Dury cut a striking figure — he remained handicapped from a childhood bout with polio, yet stalked the stage with dynamic charisma, spitting out music hall numbers and rockers in his thick Cockney accent.
Dury was 28 at the time he formed Kilburn, and once they disbanded, conventional wisdom would have suggested that he was far too old to become a pop star, but conventional wisdom never played much of a role in Dury’s career. Signing with the fledgling indie label Stiff in 1978, Dury developed a strange fusion of music hall, punk rock, and disco that brought him to stardom in his native England.
Driven by a warped sense of humor and a pulsating beat, singles like “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick,” “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” and “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” became Top Ten hits in the U.K., yet Dury’s most distinctive qualities — his dry wit and wordplay, thick Cockney accent, and fascination with music hall — kept him from gaining popularity outside of England. After his second album, Dury’s style became formulaic, and he faded away in the early ’80s, turning to an acting career instead.
Dury quietly backed away from a recording career and began to concentrate on acting; 1984’s 4000 Weeks Holiday, an album recorded with his new band the Music Students, was his last major record of the ’80s. He appeared in several plays and television shows, as well as the Peter Greenaway film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Roman Polanski’s movie Pirates. He also began to write jingles for British commercials. In 1989, he wrote the musical Apples with Mickey Gallagher, and he also appeared in the stage production of the play. Dury returned to recording in 1992 with The Bus Driver’s Prayer and Other Stories.
In May 1998, Dury announced that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1995 and that the disease had spread to his liver. He decided to release the information the weekend of his 56th birthday, in hopes of offering encouragement for others battling the disease. For the next year, he battled the disease while keeping a public profile — in the fall of 1999, he was inducted into Q magazine’s songwriting hall of fame, and he appeared at the ceremony. Sadly, it was his last public appearance. Dury succumbed to cancer on March 27, 2000. He left behind a truly unique, individual body of work.