Ray Thomas, flautist, vocalist and founding member of the Moody Blues, died Thursday at the age of 76.
Thomas' label Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records confirmed the multi-instrumentalist's death on Facebook, adding that Thomas died suddenly at his home in Surrey, England. No cause of death was announced.
"We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humour and kindness," the label wrote. "It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife Lee at this sad time."
Moody Blues bassist John Lodge tweeted Sunday, "Ray and I have been on this magical journey through life together since we were 14... two young kids from Birmingham who reached for the stars...and we made it together. El Riot you will always be by my side." Thomas and Lodge played together in their band El Riot and the Rebels in the early Sixties.
In 1964, after El Riot split, Thomas and keyboardist Mike Pinder formed the Moody Blues alongside drummer Graeme Edge, bassist Clint Warwick and guitarist Denny Laine. That lineup would release the hit "Go Now" and the 1965 LP The Magnificent Moodies, which featured Thomas on lead vocals for the Gershwin cover "It Ain't Necessarily So."
The Moody Blues would soon replace Laine with Justin Hayward and Warwick with Thomas' El Riot band mate Lodge to form the band's classic lineup. As flautist, multi-instrumentalist and singer in the Moody Blues, Thomas appeared on all of the prog rock band's albums – including their classic LPs like Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord, A Question of Balance and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour – until his retirement in 2002.
Thomas also wrote and sang Moody Blues tracks like "Twilight Time," "Legend of the Mind," "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume," "Dear Diary" and "And the Tide Rushes In." In addition to his time with the Moody Blues, Thomas also released a pair of solo albums, 1975's From Mighty Oaks and 1976's Hopes, Wishes and Dreams, while the group went on hiatus in the mid-Seventies.
Thomas retired from the Moody Blues in 2002 after suffering from a series of health issues. In 2013, Thomas revealed that he was suffering from "in-operable" prostate cancer. "The cancer is being held in remission but I'll be receiving this treatment for the rest of my life," Thomas wrote on his website.
In December, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that the Moody Blues' classic lineup – Thomas, Hayward, Edge, Lodge and Pinder – would be inducted as part of the Class of 2018; Laine was subsequently added to the band's Rock Hall roster days later.
Following the announcement, Lodge said in an interview that he was hopeful that both Thomas and Pinder – who left the band in 1978 – would return for the induction ceremony. "If it works, it will be fantastic because it’s a natural thing to do. I’m not trying to force it – it’ll be because it’s supposed to be," Lodge said. "They’ve been an integral part of my life. You can’t dismiss that. It’s locked in there." Hayward also told Rolling Stone he would be open to a reunion of the Moody Blues' classic lineup.