Gilli Smyth, co-founder of psychedelic space-rock legends Gong, died last Monday (22nd August) at Byron Bay Hospital in Australia after a battle with pulmonary pneumonia. The news was reported on Facebook by her son Orlando Allen. She was 83.
Smyth performed poetry with jazz-rock group Soft Machine alongside Daevid Allen before they went on to found Gong together in 1967 in Paris. Smyth co-wrote a number of songs featured on their first six albums, helping to develop their early sound with her spoken word “spacewhisper” vocals.
After the completion of their ‘Radio Gnome Invisible‘ trilogy with ‘You’ in 1974, Smyth departed the band to pursue a solo career. But rather than spell the end for Gong, individual band members formed their own offshoots which included Planet Gong, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong and New York Gong.
Smyth‘s own incarnation, Mother Gong, was formed after she released her debut solo album ‘Mother’ in 1978. Mother Gong would perform on the main stage at Glastonbury twice in 1979 and 1981 and would also open for Bob Dylan.
Smyth reunited with part of the original Gong line-up in 1994 to celebrate its 25th birthday, embarking on a number of tours over subsequent years. Her final appearance with the band came in 2012.
News of Smyth’s death comes just under a year and a half after her former partner and Gong co-founder Daevid Allen died of cancer at the age of 77. They had two sons together.
A message on the Planet Gong website commemorating the life of Smyth stated:
“Her unique stage presence and vocals manifested and determinedly represented a vital, deeply fundamental feminine principle within the Gong universe… We will miss her. Love to the Good Witch and all who feel her loss.”
As per the wishes of Daevid Allen, the remaining members of Gong are scheduled to release a new album on 16th September. ‘Rejoice! I’m Dead!‘ will be available via Snapper Records and followed by a short UK tour.
This Gilli Smyth article was written by Daniel Kirby, a GIGsoup contributor