John Cooper Lawton (11 July 1946 – 29 June 2021) was a British rock and blues vocalist best known for his work with Lucifer’s Friend, Uriah Heep and the Les Humphries Singers.
Lawton began his musical career in North Shields, UK, in the early ’60s with The Deans, a bunch of kids who decided at random that he should be singer. He then moved on to West One and later Stonewall which included John Miles, Vic Malcolm (later of Geordie) and Paul Thompson (later of Roxy Music).
After Stonewall finished their stint at Top Ten Club in Hamburg in 1969, Lawton decided to stay in Germany, after having been offered the job as singer with legendary German rock cult band Lucifer’s Friend (1969–1976 and 1979–1995) with whom he recorded seven studio albums. He also joined the Les Humphries Singers, in the early ’70s (which included the Eurovision Song Contest in ’76).
In 1976 Lawton joined Uriah Heep as their frontman, recording the albums Firefly, Innocent Victim, Fallen Angel and Live in Europe ’79, touring Europe and the U.S. until September 1979.
During his longstanding career Lawton has worked with some big names of rock, on various projects, including Roger Glover’s “Butterfly Ball” live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975, featuring David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ian Gillan and Twiggy. He sang on Eddie Hardin’s “Wizard’s Convention II” with Chris Farlowe, Denny Laine, Paul Jones and Tony Ashton.
Lawton worked with some of the finest record producers, including Tony Clarke (Moody Blues), Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones), and Harold Faltermeyer (Pet Shop Boys), who produced the titles Lawton sang on the Lenny McDowell Project “Lost Paradise”.
Lawton sang with German rock band Rebel, later known as Zar, on three albums, during the late ’80s -’90s including their hit singles “Line of Fire” and “Eagles Flight”, and moved on to Volker Barber’s classical project “Excalibur”. He also sang on several German commercials, including the “Colgate Gel” TV spots, the “Peter Stuyvesant Travel” spots, the Stuyvesant single “Come Together” and a stint for Harley Davidson Motorbikes.
Lawton formed GunHill, later known as JLB (John Lawton Band), in January 1994, touring the UK and Europe. In 1995 he briefly rejoined Uriah Heep for 2 weeks, to tour South Africa and Austria with Deep Purple, filling in for their singer Bernie Shaw, who was suffering from voice problems at the time.
Inspired by German top producer Robert Papst and his partner Reinhold Hoffman, Lawton re-recorded one of the Les Humphries Singers’ favourites, the 1970s hit “Mama Loo”, in January 1998. In August 2000, his solo album Still Paying My Dues to the Blues, produced by Robert Papst, was released in Europe, UK and Scandinavia, by Hypertension Music Hamburg and distributed through EDEL Germany. (The album has been re-released in 2010)
During the 4th Uriah Heep Annual Convention in London, May 2000, plans were made for a one-off concert by the so-called Hensley/Lawton Band. Lawton was joined by former Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley, for the first time 21 years after Lawton’s departure from Uriah Heep in 1979. With them were Paul Newton (their original bassist), and 2 members of Lawton’s band Reuben Kane on lead guitar and Justin Shefford on drums. They played a collection of old Heep classics and some of Hensley & Lawton’s solo songs, and the concert was recorded for a CD release called The Return.
In 2001 Lawton teamed up with Ken Hensley to form the Hensley Lawton Band. After extensive touring, during Spring and Summer of 2001, culminating with a concert in Hamburg, Germany, featuring a full orchestra and a new rendition of Heep’s old classic “Salisbury”, both Ken and John returned to their respective solo careers. On 7 December 2001, both John Lawton and Ken Hensley appeared on stage with Uriah Heep during the annual Magician’s Birthday Party at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. This concert was recorded and released as a CD/DVD.
The John Lawton Band – “JLB” was taken on by Classic Rock Productions in 2001 to record the acoustic CD Steppin’ It Up, which features John & Steve Dunning. One More Night Live at the Mean Fiddler, CD & DVD, was recorded in 2002, which was followed in 2003 by JLB’s Sting in the Tale CD, an original studio rock album. Later that year followed another Live CD & DVD Shakin’ The Tale. JLB had been touring extensively with their last gig in Hamburg, September 2004, when Lawton decided to take an indefinite break.
In May 2006 Lawton joined forces with Dutch guitarist Jan Dumée (ex-Focus) to form the On The Rocks project. On The Rocks – “OTR” featured Brazilian musicians Ney Conceição on bass, Xande Figueiredo on drums, and Marvio Ciribelli on keyboards. Lawton and Dumée wrote and recorded the tracks for the debut album Mamonama, released in October 2008.
In September 2008 John Lawton appeared on stage at the Heepvention 2008 in Spain, with former Uriah Heep members Ken Hensley, Lee Kerslake and Paul Newton, together with Jan Dumee from the OTR project on guitar.
In December 2008 John entered the world of television by presenting the Bulgarian travel documentary series “John Lawton presents” which also includes music from the Mamonama album. Made by the Bulgarian TV company “Skat”, the films feature interesting historical landmarks of Bulgarian towns and cities, traditional festivities and interviews with the city mayors and local people. So far the series consists of 19 documentaries, including the municipalities of Karnobat, Sozopol, Tsarevo, Primorsko, Burgas, Smolyan, Pamporovo, Varna, Malko Tarnovo, Velingrad, Shumen, Popovo winter, Popovo spring, Chepelare, Lovech, Kavarna, Stara Zagora, Nedelino.
In 2009 John again joined Ken Hensley, Lee Kerslake and Paul Newton to appear at Heepvention 2009 in Salo, Finland with a Finnish guitarist completing the line-up.
In March 2010, John made his acting debut in the motion picture Love.net, filmed and produced by Bulgarian film company Miramar Film. Part of John’s scenes were shot at Liscombe Park, UK, featuring a guest appearance by Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box, with the remainder filmed in Sofia. He also recorded the movie’s soundtrack song – Tonight. The film was premiered in Sofia on 26 March 2011.
In November 2011, Lawton teamed up with Bulgarian band Diana Express to record the album “The Power of Mind” which was composed by Dr. Milen Vrabevski. The album was released in 2012.
Lawton died unexpectedly in June 2021, at the age of 74. (wikipedia)
And here´s his first solo album:Strange solo album by John Lawton (Lucifer’s Friend, Uriah Heep) and a good chunk of Lucifer’s Friend that is increasingly hard to find anywhere. Lots of new wave influence on it, and disco basslines.(AdamOdell)
The German edition of the album:
Actually this killer fmrock album is kinda a super group album!! With Lucifer’s friend members. As for Curt Cress is an amazin’ musician and composer.Also Adrian Askew is quite interestin’ musician!!!.Unfortunately criminally underrated album!!!. (by KB-P2730)
We all know thatJohn Lawton is an outstanding singer, and this is my favorite album besides his Uriah Heep albums. Plus I have just realized what a great bass player Dieter Horns is – awesome playing and such a fat Precision Bass tone! (by Klaus)
Actually, it was a perfect album. There was almost everything for being successful, an incredible voice, however as usually, very good guitarist, super drummer, the music back then is much better than what we have now. It seems to me, only a promotion sucked totally and it’s a shame that a few people aware of such gem, a lost pearl. Pity! (by Natalie Gordon)
I guess, that best albums of John Lawton was with Lucifer´s Friend.
Adrian Askew (keyboards, vocoder)
Curt Cress (drums)
Peter Hecht (piano)
Peter Hesslein (guitar, background vocals)
Dieter Horns (bass)
John Lawton (vocals)
01. Lola 3:57
02. Heartbeat 3:40
03. Return To Sender 4:07
04. Christine 3:46
05. Breaking Out 3:45
06. Rainbow Chasing 3:13
07. Stairway 4:02
08. Daddy’s In The Money 4:03
09. What A Woman 3:37
10. Darkness Over The Island 5:11
All songs written by John Lawton & Peter Hesslein
John Lawton, the vocalist for the long-running Uriah Heep during one of the British rock band’s most popular eras, died June 29 of undisclosed causes.
His death was announced last night by the band.
“It is with deep regret that we share the devastating and tragic news of the sudden and totally unexpected passing of John Lawton on 29 June 2021,” the band wrote on its official Twitter page. “John will be greatly missed.”
Named after a character from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, the London band Uriah Heep, formed in 1969, had already found success with vocalist David Byron (including the 1972 hit “Easy Livin’” and 1973’s “Stealin’”) when Lawton replaced the original singer in 1976. During his three-year tenure with the band, Lawton and Uriah Heep recorded three studio albums: 1976’s Firefly, 1977’s Innocent Victim and 1978’s Fallen Angel. The 1979 concert album Live in Europe ’79 also featured Lawton.
While Heep’s popularity in the United States arguably peaked prior to Lawton’s arrival, the band enjoyed significant success globally both during and after his stint. Most notably, Lawton sang lead on 1977’s “Free Me,” a hit in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Prior to his work with Uriah Heep, Lawton sang with German rock band Lucifer’s Friend as well as the German pop group the Les Humphries Singers. Post-Heep, he performed with the groups Rebel, GunHill and with producer/songwriter Ken Hensley in the Hensley Lawton Band.
Lawton is survived by his wife, although additional survivor information was not immediately available. A private funeral service will be held according to his wishes. (deadline.com/)