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Ray Cooper

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Ray Cooper
Ray Cooper 2010.jpg
Cooper on tour with Elton John in January 2010 at a concert in Hawaii
Background information
Born (1947-09-19) 19 September 1947 (age 73)
Watford, Hertfordshire, England
Occupation(s)Musician, actor
Instruments Percussion, drums, piano, vocals
Years active1960s–present
Associated acts Elton John, Billy Joel, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Mark Knopfler, Roger Waters, Maynard Ferguson, Traveling Wilburys, Joan Armatrading, Weezer, Ravi Shankar, Harry Nilsson

Raymond Cooper (born 19 September 1947 [1] [2] ) is an English musician. He is a session and road-tour percussionist, and occasional actor, who has worked with several musically diverse bands and artists including Peter Maffay, George Harrison, Billy Joel, Rick Wakeman, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd and Elton John. Cooper absorbed the influence of rock drummers from the 1960s and 1970s such as Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice and John Bonham. Incorporation of unusual instruments (for rock drummers of the time) such as cowbells, glockenspiel and tubular bells, along with several standard kit elements, helped create a highly varied setup.


Continually modified to this day, Cooper's percussion set offers a large array of percussion instruments for sonic diversity such as the tambourine, congas, crash cymbals, cowbells, rototoms, tubular bells, the gong, snare drum and timpani.

Life and career

Cooper was born in Watford, Hertfordshire.

In addition to percussion, Cooper studied classical piano, strings and woodwind, as well as theatre. He later joined the band Blue Mink, and as a session musician he played on records for artists such as America, Carly Simon and David Essex. [3] He played on and co-produced the album Somewhere in England by former Beatle George Harrison in 1981 (Dark Horse Records DHK 3492).

Cooper has long been associated with Elton John's career, playing on more than 90 recordings, and performing in more than 800 concerts with John both as a duo and in various band configurations. His first appearance with John was during the sessions for Madman Across the Water , and he played his first live show with him in early 1972. Cooper had a short stint with The Rolling Stones playing percussion for their 1974 It's Only Rock 'n Roll album. After contributing to various Elton John albums, Cooper joined the Elton John Band full-time in 1974 and spent the next two years recording and touring with the group.

During John's semi-retirement in the late 1970s, Cooper played on various singles and albums for John, and recorded with George Harrison, the Kinks, Wings and Art Garfunkel. In 1977 and again in 1979, Cooper toured with Elton John as a duo in which John would play a solo set and then be joined by Cooper on percussion for the second half of the concerts.

Cooper's relationship with the Rolling Stones continued into the 1980s. In 1981, he contributed to Bill Wyman's third solo album. In 1983, he participated in a short tour for the Ronnie Lane ARMS Charity Concert along with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and other artists, including Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.

In the 1980s, Cooper continued to record and tour periodically with Elton John. In 1986, he joined John's touring band for the Tour De Force (tour) concerts in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, augmenting Jody Linscott, who was the band's percussionist on the rest of John's world tour.

Cooper showed up on Christine McVie's self-titled solo album in 1984. In 1985, Cooper appeared on both Mick Jagger's She's the Boss album and Bill Wyman's Willie & The Poor Boys. Also in 1985, Cooper performed as percussionist for a number of artists during the charity event Live Aid. In 1997, he guested with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings for Struttin' Our Stuff.

In every tour during 1990, Eric Clapton and the band played "Sunshine of Your Love", which then flowed into a short one-minute drum solo by Steve Ferrone (drummer for Clapton's band on the tour), then into a 7-minute percussion solo by Ray Cooper on the tambourine, congas, and gong. On 16 January 1992, Cooper played percussion for Clapton's installment of the MTV Unplugged television series.

During 1994 and 1995 Face to Face tours with Billy Joel, and during Elton John's tours in 1995, Elton John played "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", which then flowed into a solo by Cooper on percussion. In the 1995 "Evening With Elton John and Ray Cooper" tour, the two men performed in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica, where John performed a solo set, then was joined by Cooper on percussion for the second half of the show. On 15 September 1997, Cooper was the principal percussionist along with Phil Collins at the Music for Montserrat fund raiser concert in Royal Albert Hall. Cooper was part of the band at the Concert for George, the memorial concert for George Harrison, held at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002. He contributed to the tribute concert for Jim Capaldi in January 2007. He worked on Katie Melua's album Pictures (2007).

Film work

Towards the end of the 1980s, Cooper got involved in film as a musician, actor and producer, including movies for HandMade Films, which was owned by his friend George Harrison. [4]

He has played small roles such as the preacher in Robert Altman's feature film Popeye (1980) starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. He has performed music in several of Terry Gilliam's productions, appearing on-screen in quirky roles like the technician who swats the beetle at the beginning of Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil and as the functionary whispering in the ear of Jonathan Pryce's Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson character in 1989's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen . He appeared in the Concert for Cascara in the 1985 film Water , and appears as a street commercial for The Zero Theorem .

The role of Albert Arthur Moxey in the hit television series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was written with Cooper in mind by friends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, with the character originally being conceived as an Irishman, after Cooper expressed an interest in acting. The role was however given to Christopher Fairbank, who opted to play him as a scouser, due to Cooper being unable to make it to the audition and commit to the show. The character of Moxey was given only limited lines and screentime in the first series of "Pet" due to Cooper's acting inexperience.[ citation needed ]

Recent work

Cooper has continued recording and performing with Elton John on various albums and tours, including John's The Million Dollar Piano show in Las Vegas. [5] In 2009, John and Cooper performed a small exclusive series of shows, mostly in the UK and Europe, the first time since 1995 that the two had toured together without a band. Amongst their performances was one at the Royal Albert Hall to raise funds for a new organ which the Royal Academy of Music would assemble in their Duke's Hall. They raised further funds with a further performance at the Royal Opera House in 2011. The organ has been named the Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper Organ, and was heard for the first time on 7 October 2013. [6] [3] In a greeting to Cooper on his 70th birthday, John's website stated that when Elton composed the song "Tambourine" for his 2016 Wonderful Crazy Night album, he made sure to bring in Cooper to play the instrument on the track. As of June 2019, Cooper is touring with John as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road farewell tour.

Instruments played

Cooper is known to have played tambourine, congas, maracas, bongos, cymbals, wind chimes, bell tree, triangle, timpani, bells, tubular bells, shaker, vibraphone, marimba, gong, Rototoms, jaw bone, cowbell, finger cymbals, timbales, crotales, güiro, glockenspiel, whistle, drum kit, snare drum, keyboards, piano, and guitar. [7] [2] [8]


With Elton John

With Joan Armatrading

With David Gilmour

With Murray Head

With Katie Melua

With Roger Waters

With George Harrison

With Carly Simon

With Kiki Dee

With Christine McVie

With Roy Orbison

With Art Garfunkel

With Cass Elliot

With Mick Jagger

With Dana Gillespie

With Eric Clapton

With Sting

With Bryan Ferry

With Yvonne Elliman

With Paul McCartney

With Rosemary Clooney

With Bill Wyman

With Rod Stewart

With Harry Nilsson

With Lulu

With Donovan

With Madeline Bell

With Ringo Starr

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  1. "Happy Birthday to Percussionist Ray Cooper". eltonjohn.com. 19 September 2016. Archived from the original on 13 November 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Percussionist Ray Cooper Celebrates a Birthday Today". 19 September 2014. Archived from the original on 15 September 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  3. 1 2 "Ray Cooper – Elton John". Elton John.
  4. Ray Cooper at IMDb
  5. "We Wish Ray Cooper a Very Happy Birthday". Elton John.
  6. "The Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper Organ" (PDF). The Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  7. Ray Cooper at AllMusic
  8. Shipton, Alyn (2013). Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 227. ISBN   978-0-199-75657-5.