Gong Co-Founder Gilli Smyth Dead at 83
Gilli Smyth, the poet and singer whose distinctive atonal style was a critical component of Gong's early sound, has died at the age of 83.
News of Smyth's passing is confirmed by her son Orlando Monday Allen, who shared reports of her deteriorating condition from her bedside during the final hours of her life. Members of the Gong community exchanged messages with Allen, who passed them along to Smyth and told followers she "sends all her love and huge thanks for ... everyone's thoughts, energies and expressions."
Smyth co-founded Gong with frontman Daevid Allen in 1967 and had a strong creative hand in the group's first five studio albums, which saw her contributing songs as well as the singular singing style described as "space whisper" in the band's liner notes. She left the lineup in 1975 to focus on her family, but remained part of the Gong creative orbit; after releasing her solo Mother LP in 1978, she founded the offshoot group Mother Gong, which released a lengthy collection of albums and toured into the '90s. Smyth returned to Gong in the mid-'90s for the first in a series of reunions, the last of which ended in 2013.
"I began with poetry, lines of words," Smyth said of her early technique. "Then I started enlarging the sounds that were in the ideas of words, and the ideas became sounds. ... The aim is to provoke the audience, the get them excited — make them active rather than passive. The main aim of our music is to immerse our audience in a state out of the daily life."
Smyth's death comes roughly a year and a half after the death of her fellow Gong founder Allen, with whom she shared two children and a long creative journey. The band's current lineup commemorated her passing with a message at their official site, referring to her as "83 and also ageless," and adding that "her unique stage presence and vocals manifested and determinedly represented a vital, deeply fundamental feminine principle within the Gong universe. ... We will miss her. Love and laughter to the Good Witch."
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