Agent confirms death of comedian-songwriter who co-founded the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and wrote for Monty Python
Neil Innes, the comedian and songwriter known for spoof Beatles band the Rutles as well as his work with Monty Python, has died aged 75, according to his agent.
Born in 1944 and raised in Germany and the UK, he studied drama at Goldsmiths college, where he formed the absurdist pop group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They scored a Top 5 hit with I’m the Urban Spaceman in 1968, produced pseudonymously by Paul McCartney – it won Innes an Ivor Novello songwriting award.
Innes was later known as “the seventh Python” thanks to his contributions to the comedy troupe’s sketches and films, including the songs Knights of the Round Table and Brave Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Innes also contributed the whistled melody to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Life of Brian.
Following the dissolution of Python, Innes teamed with Eric Idle to create the sketch show Rutland Weekend Television. It spawned the Rutles, a pastiche of the Beatles with Innes playing a Lennon-esque character called Ron Nasty, performing songs such as Cheese and Onions, Ouch!, and Get Up and Go. A TV film, All You Need is Cash, was released in 1978, and featured cameos from George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Bill Murray and Michael Palin. Innes most recently toured the UK with the Rutles in May and June 2019.
Innes’ spoof songs were targeted by Beatles publisher ATV Music who successfully argued that Lennon and McCartney should be added to the songwriting credits, and settled out of court with Innes’ publisher. After another legal dispute, Innes was added to the credits of Oasis’s song Whatever, which was deemed to have imitated his song How Sweet to Be an Idiot. “The music business is like a school where big boys come and take your candy away,” Innes said in 2013. “No other business in the world gets away with stealing like the music business – apart from banking.”