Burke Shelley, Frontman of Welsh Metal Forefathers Budgie, Dead at 71

Burke Shelley by Horacy67, via Wikipedia.
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Sad news for the rock and metal world today as Burke Shelley, vocalist and bassist for Welsh proto-metal stars Budgie, has died. He was 71 years old.

News of Burke’s death was confirmed by his daughter Ela, who wrote on Facebook, “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley. He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town. He was 71 years old. Please respect the family during this time.

“With love, His four children: Ela, Osian, Dimitri and Nathaniel.”

According to Blabbermouth, Shelley said that he was suffering from aortic aneurysm two years ago. The ailment is a dangerous and abnormal swelling of the main artery that supplies blood to the body. Shelley said he was also battling Stickler syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause serious issues with one’s vision, hearing and joints. Speaking to Wales Online, he said he didn’t want surgery for fear that it might cause irreparable spinal damage.

“I want to live what life I have left and not be crippled,” he said. “I’ve got faith in God and have no worries about where I’m going. So I’ll just go when He decides to take me and, in the meantime, I’ll carry on doing what I want to do. Simple as that.”

For several years, Budgie was one of the premiere bands in the then-burgeoning heavy metal scene. They combined Black Sabbath’s heaviness with Rush’s progressive elements; in facts, Shelley was often compared to Rush frontman Geddy Lee in terms of both his vocal and bass style. The band were a huge influence on Metallica; their track “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” from their 1974 album In For The Kill was later covered by the band on their album The $5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited.

Everyone at The Pit sends their heart out to Shelley’s family, friends, fans and collaborators during this difficult time.


Words by Chris Krovatin