English bassoon and oboe player, composer and political activist Lindsay Cooper died on 18 September after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. She was 62.
Cooper was best known for her work with the band Henry Cow, she was also a member of Comus, National Health, News from Babel and David Thomas and the Pedestrians. She collaborated with a number of musicians, including Chris Cutler and Sally Potter, and co-founded the Feminist Improvising Group. She wrote scores for film and TV and a song cycle Oh Moscow which was performed live around the world in 1987. She also recorded a number of solo albums, including “Rags” (1980), “The Gold Diggers” (1983) and “Music For Other Occasions” (1986).
In late 1973, after having been a member of Comus and doing session work, Henry Cow asked Cooper to join them as a replacement for Geoff Leigh (tenor sax and flute) who had recently left. Her classical training interested the group as they were continually looking for new musical directions. She immediately joined the band in the studio to record their second album “Unrest” (1974). However, following their European tour supporting Captain Beefheart, the group reorganized themselves and asked Cooper to leave, performing as a quartet on their Scandinavian tour of September 1974. But she still continued to guest on their albums and by February 1975 she rejoined the group again and remained a permanent member until they split up in 1978. From 1977, Cooper became one of Henry Cow’s principal composers and contributed a number of compositions to their repertoire, including half of their final album, “Western Culture” (1978).
Cooper was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1970s, but did not disclose it to the musical community until the late 1990s when her illness prevented her from performing live.