As if the deaths of Bowie, Prince and Frank Sinatra Jnr weren’t enough, now Sultans of Swing rhythm guitarist George has checked out. He was 100 years old and had a reputation for his comprehensive knowledge of guitar chords, or tabs as they are known today.
Shortly before he died, he asked that he be given a quiet funeral. “I do not want to make anybody cry or sing,” he said; “it’s strictly rhythm, so if you must clap, please do so in 6/8 time with occasional syncopated emphasis on the offbeat.”
The care home staff were consoled that that he died doing what he loved, with his heart-rate monitor displaying a steady beat right up to the moment of death.
“Even at his age, he could still give you a good lick,” said Marjorie Houndstooth, who runs the Over-The-Hill Nursing Home where George was staying. “George refused to classify himself as retired. Not even semi-retired. But he was alright with hemi-demi-semi-retired.”
Elsie Duggan, 86, long-term resident in the home, told us that the only surviving person who knew George well was Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, who once visited George at the home in the 1980s.
Following the tip-off, we caught up with Mr Knopfler in the Portobello Road as he hopped off a number nineteen bus and stepped out to Angeluccis for his coffee beans.
“Yeah, me and George were real close buddies back in the day,” he said. “Kids these days, they got all the fancy gear, but only know three chords. Poor old George, an old guitar was all he could afford. But, I tell you what, he really did know all the chords. I said he should write them down for future generations, but he couldn’t be bothered. Laid back sort of guy. Well he is now anyway.”
George’s death comes only weeks after fellow Sultans musician Harry died.
“Harry too?” said Mr Knopfler. “He could play the honky-tonk like anything. I feel like stepping right up to the microphone to say at last, just as the time bell rings, ‘Goodnight, now it’s time to go home.’ All these deaths, brrrr, you get a shiver in the dark.”