Phil May, lead singer for the influential British Invasion-era rock band Pretty Things, has died at age 75. According to a statement from the band’s management, May died Friday morning at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. He’d been hospitalized since suffering a bike accident last week. Injuries from the crash necessitated emergency hip surgery, which led to complications that caused May’s death. He is survived by his son, Paris May, his daughter, Sorrel May and his partner, Colin Graham.
Born in Dartford, Kent in 1944, May formed the Pretty Things in 1963 with his Sidcup Art College classmate Dick Taylor, who had just parted ways with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ pre-Rolling Stones band Little Boy Blue And The Blue Boys. The Pretty Things signed to Fontana Records in 1964 and began releasing a mix of hard-edged R&B covers and originals. May gained widespread notoriety at the time for his hair, which he claimed was the longest in the UK, as well as his bisexuality and experimentation with drugs.
As the 1960s rolled on, the Pretty Things’ membership evolved, and they began exploring a more psychedelic sound. Their 1968 classic S.F. Sorrow is remembered as one of the first rock operas. The group continued adapting to new rock trends and releasing albums up through 1980, after which May and Taylor kept some version of the Pretty Things on tour throughout the ’80s and ’90s. At one point they teamed up with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty as the Pretty Things/Yardbird Blues Band. More Pretty Things albums followed in 1999, 2007, and, 2015.
Dozens of members entered and exited over the years, but May and Taylor remained the band’s unshakable core. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie (who famously sang “Oh! You Pretty Things” on 1971’s Hunky Dory) claimed them as influences. At their 2018 farewell show, they were joined onstage by artists including David Gilmour and Van Morrison.