The news was announced by long-running English prog rock band Heep on their Facebook page, where singer Bernie Shaw wrote, “Well, where are the words to describe the feelings one has when you loose a friend, colleague , fellow band mate ( for 20 some odd years!) brother in arms, let alone when it’s someone larger than life like Lee Kerslake? As well as one of the most revered yet under rated drummers in the world, Lee was also one of the main voices in Uriah Heep. Never dropped a note in all the years I worked with him.”
Shaw, who joined the group in the mid-1980s, paid tribute to the drummer who served two stints in the group from 1971-1979 and then again from 1981-2007, drumming and singing backing vocals on the albums Demons and Wizards (1972), The Magician’s Birthday (1972), Sweet Freedom (1973), Wonderworld (1974), Return to Fantasy (1975), High and Mighty (1976), Firefly (1977), Innocent Victim (1977) and Fallen Angel (1978).
“As a person, he was generous to a fault,” Shaw continued. “Always smiling and ready to entertain at the drop of a hat. Many a free drink was had after a show when he would get up and play with a local band at the nearest club we could find, and first up if there was someone with a fishing boat willing to take him out for the day. That was Lee.”
Born in Dorset, England, on April 16, 1847, Kerslake got his start in the late 1960s in the English band the Gods, with which he released three albums before joining Uriah Heep in 1971. After a chance meeting with recently departed Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, Kerslake joined the metal icon and guitarist Randy Rhodes in the short-lived Blizzard of Ozz, which turned into Osbourne’s solo project. Kerslake played drums on Ozzy’s first two solo albums, the just-reissued Blizzard of Ozz and 1981’s Diary of a Madman.
He rejoined Uriah Heep for their 14th studio album, Abominog, playing on six more studio efforts before leaving again in 2007 due to health issues. In a Dec. 2018 interview, Kerslake said that he’d been given just months to live. “It’s prostate cancer but it’s moved to rest of my body I have now have bone cancer which is nasty one, so the doctor gave me about eight months to live,” he said. But I’ve been fighting all the way. Five years ago they gave me four years to live and so that gives you an idea. Not only have I got bone cancer I’ve got psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and two heart murmurs. As I said to you I’m fighting it and there’s no telling what can happen and they might have a new drug come out and I’ll experiment with it if it keeps me alive.”
Watch Kerslake perform on “The Wizard” and check out some tributes below, including one from Osbourne: