Ian McDonald, a multi-instrumentalist and charter member of both King Crimson and Foreigner, has died. He was 75 years old.
A statement from his family issued Thursday (Feb. 10) confirmed his passing the day before, surrounded by family at his home in New York City, after a battle with cancer.
An accomplished keyboardist, saxophonist and flautist, McDonald - born in Osterley, Middlesex, England in 1946 - first honed his professional talents with five years playing in the British Army. In 1968 he formed King Crimson with musicians Robert Fripp, Greg Lake and Michael Giles and lyricist Peter Sinfeld. Though he was only present for their debut studio album, In the Court of the Crimson King, he contributed to what many believe is one of the defining progressive rock albums. McDonald and Giles spontaneously departed within a year, releasing an album together; McDonald guested on King Crimson's 1974 release Red and was in talks to rejoin the band before Fripp decided to put the project on hiatus.
His next big act was to found Foreigner with British guitarist Mick Jones, adding guitar playing to his arsenal in the process. Recruiting keyboardist Al Greenwood, bassist Ed Gagliardi, drummer Dennis Elliott and a soaring vocalist named Lou Gramm, Foreigner dominated the U.S. charts with singles like "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold As Ice," "Hot Blooded" and "Double Vision." McDonald was present on the group's first three albums - Foreigner (1977), Double Vision (1978) and Head Games (1979), all of which went Top 5 in America - before being replaced at Jones' behest. (The band went on to continued commercial success through the '80s.)
READ MORE: "Cold As Ice" Heated Things Up for Foreigner
During and after his time with both bands, McDonald was renowned in England as a first-call session player. His saxophone can be heard on T. Rex's "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" as well as albums by Herbie Mann, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Stories frontman Ian Lloyd and others. While he was happy working on other projects, he was pleased with his past work and its impact. "I'm quite proud of the fact that the two bands I was a founding member of, King Crimson and Foreigner, are still out there playing," he told Sound & Vision in 2020.
He is survived by a son, Maxwell.
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