Ray Thomas obituary

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Founding member of the Moody Blues best known as the group’s flautist

Ray Thomas, a founding member of the Moody Blues, who has died aged 76, played various instruments, including the French horn, oboe, piccolo, harmonica and saxophone, but was best known as the group’s flautist. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson would become rock’s most flamboyant flute-brandisher. However, Thomas’s solo in the band’s biggest hit Nights in White Satin, which went to No 2 in the US and reached No 9 in the UK at the end of 1967 (one of its three appearances in the UK Top 20), perfectly encapsulated the song’s mood of mystical melancholy.

Though they started out as an R&B band in Birmingham, the Moody Blues became early pioneers of symphonic rock, and precursors of the 1970s progressive movement. Their debut album, The Magnificent Moodies (1965), went to No 5 in Britain, but it was not until the band regrouped in 1966 that they found their true musical direction.

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