Neil Innes, a comedian, musician and writer known for his frequent collaborations with Monty Python, has died at the age of 75. Innes was also a co-founder of The Rutles and a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. A statement posted on Innes’ website described his death as sudden: “He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain,” wrote an unspecified member of his family.
Innes began his career with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, serving as one of the lead songwriters for the Dada-inspired comedy-rock group alongside Vivian Stanshall, a fellow art student. The band garnered a hit with “I’m the Urban Spaceman” and got the attention of The Beatles with “Death Cab for Cutie,” which was used in the 1967 Magical Mystery Tour film—and later became the namesake for Ben Gibbard’s indie-rock band. They also appeared on the British children’s program Do Not Adjust Your Set with various future members of Monty Python.
Innes collaborated extensively with the Monty Python team throughout the 1970s. He contributed compositions and performed music on the group’s third and fourth records, and participated in writing and performing for the final season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus following the departure of John Cleese. Innes and Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) were the only people outside of the core Python troupe to receive writing credits on the series. Among other collaborations, Innes also contributed songwriting to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and took on several minor roles in the film.
As a founding member of The Rutles, a Beatles parody band, Innes spoofed John Lennon in his role of bandleader Ron Nasty. Begun as a single TV sketch shown on a BBC comedy show and later on Saturday Night Live, The Rutles took off with the mockumentary All You Need Is Cash, which featured George Harrison himself in an acting role. The group released a self-titled record and numerous singles throughout the ‘70s, which led to Innes being hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit in 1978 that ended in a settlement. Upon the release of The Beatles’ Anthology film, book and box set in the ‘90s, The Rutles reunited for their own satiric retrospective and rarity collection, Archaeology.
Innes’ death has been met with an outpouring of tributes on Twitter. The members of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band shared a photo of a recent reunion, and Cleese called him a “lovely writer and performer”:
Edgar Wright, Simon Blackwell and Mark Gatiss are also among the directors, actors and writers to voice their condolences:
Via Instagram, Gibbard also offered a touching thank you to Innes for “unknowingly naming our band”:
Celebrate Innes’ remarkable life with audio from Monty Python Live at City Center, pulled from the Paste vault, below. Innes appeared on both of Monty Python’s live albums, Live at City Center and Live at Drury Lane.