b. 24 February 1944, London, England, d. 6 September 1994, California, USA. A classically-trained pianist at the Royal Academy Of Music, Hopkins embraced rock ‘n’ roll in 1960 when, inspired by Chuck Berry, he joined the Savages, a seminal pre- Beatles group led by Screaming Lord Sutch. In 1962 Hopkins accompanied singer Cliff Bennettand his Rebel Rousers during a residency at Hamburg's STAR CLUB, before becoming a founder member of Cyril Davies’ R&B All Stars. The unit's debut release, Country Line Special, now regarded as a classic of British blues, owes much of its urgency to the pianist's compulsive technique. A lengthy spell in hospital undermined Hopkins’ career, but he re-emerged in 1965 as one of the country's leading session musicians (although he was frequently referred to as the greatest unknown in popular music). His distinctive fills were prevalent on releases by the Who, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and the Kinks, the latter of whom paid tribute with Session Man from FACE TO FACE. Hopkins later released a version of that group's Mr. Pleasant, before completing the novelty-bound REVOLUTIONARY PIANO OF NICKY HOPKINS. Sterling contributions to THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST established a rapport with the The Rolling Stones which continued over successive releases including LET IT BLEED (1969), EXILE ON MAIN STREET (1972) and BLACK AND BLUE (1976). His distinctive piano opens the Stones’ We Love You.
Tired of unremitting studio work, the pianist joined the Jeff Beck Group in October 1968, but left the following year to augment the Steve Miller Band. After moving to California, Hopkins switched to the Quicksilver Messenger Service with whom he completed two albums, including SHADY GROVE, which featured his lengthy solo tour de force, Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder. This epithet reappeared on JAMMIN’ WITH EDWARD, an informal session dating from the Stones’ LET IT BLEED sessions, belatedly issued in 1971. Hopkins was also a member of Sweet Thursday, a studio-based group which included guitarist Jon Mark, before completing a second solo album, THE TIN MAN WAS A DREAMER with assistance from George Harrison, Mick Taylor and Klaus Voorman. He also sessioned on John Lennon's IMAGINE and worked on countless albums by other rock stars of the '60s and '70s. His contribution to Jefferson Airplane's VOLUNTEERS was among his finest sessions. In 1979 Hopkins joined Night, a group which also featured vocalist Chris Thompson (ex- Manfred Mann's Earth Band) and future Pretenders and Paul McCartney guitarist Robbie McIntosh. However, the pianist left the line-up following the release of their debut album, returning to session playing by contributing to Ron Wood's 1981 release, 1,2,3,4. As a resident of California his subsequent activities included informal work with local Bay Area musicians including fellow expatriate Pete Sears (former member of Jefferson Starship) and Merrell Fankhauser. Hopkins continued to be dogged by ill health in the '90s, his death coming after complications following further stomach surgery on 6 September 1994.
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