Nicky Hopkins (born Nicholas Christian Hopkins (February 24, 1944 - September 6, 1994) was an English pianist and organist.
He recorded and performed on some of the most important British and American popular music recordings of the 1960s and 1970s, and is widely regarded as one of the most important session musicians in rock history.
Hopkins was born in Harlesden, North London, England. He suffered from Crohn's disease from his youth. Poor health and ongoing surgery made it difficult for him to tour. This contributed heavily to his focus on working primarily as a studio player.
Hopkins started his musical career in the early 1960s as the pianist with Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages, which also included Ritchie Blackmore, founder of Deep Purple. He then joined The Cyril Davies R&B All Stars, one of the first British rhythm & blues bands, and played piano on their initial single, "Country Line Special."
He began his career as a session musician in London in the early Sixties and quickly became one of the most in-demand players on the thriving session scene there, contributing his fluid and dexterous boogie-woogie influenced piano style to many hit recordings. He worked extensively as a session pianist for leading UK independent producers Shel Talmy and Mickie Most and performed on albums and singles by The Kinks, Alun Davies and Jon Mark (later of the Mark-Almond Band), while Davies was touring with Cat Stevens, Donovan, and The Rolling Stones. His performances with The Rolling Stones were among his most memorable, notably on their Sixties albums Between the Buttons, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. Hopkins also played on Jamming With Edward, an unofficial Stones release that was recorded during the Let It Bleed sessions, while Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, of the Stones, with Hopkins and Ry Cooder, were waiting for Keith Richards at Keith's Paris flat. The "Edward" of the title was an alias of Nicky Hopkins, derived from his outstanding performance on "Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder", a song from Quicksilver Messenger Service's Shady Grove LP.
In 1965, he played piano on The Who's debut LP, My Generation. He recorded with most of the top British acts of the Sixties, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks, and on solo albums by John Lennon, Jeff Beck, and others. In 1967 he joined The Jeff Beck Group, formed by former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck, with vocalist Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood and drummer Micky Waller, playing on their influential LPs Truth and Beck-Ola. He also helped define the "San Francisco sound", playing on albums by Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Steve Miller Band. He briefly joined Quicksilver Messenger Service and performed with Jefferson Airplane at the Woodstock Festival. In 1968 he played piano with the Swedish psychedelic group The Tages on the single "Halcyon Days", produced in Abbey Road Studio. He also appeared for The Who on "Getting in Tune" and "The Song Is Over" from band's 1971 album Who's Next.
Hopkins was added to the Rolling Stones live line-up on the 1971 Good-Bye Britain tour, as well as the notorious 1972 North American Tour and the early 1973 Winter Tour of Australia and New Zealand. He is featured heavily on the classic 1972 Exile on Main St. album. He started to form his own band around this time but decided against it after the Stones tour. He had planned on using Prairie Prince on drums, and Pete Sears on bass. Hopkins failed to make the Stones' 1973 tour of Europe due to ill health and, aside from a guest appearance in 1978, did not play again with the Stones live on stage. He did manage to go on tour with the Jerry Garcia Band, from August 5 to December 31, 1975. He continued to record with the Stones until 1980, and on solo records of members of the Stones up to 1991.
In 1969, Hopkins was a member of the short-lived Sweet Thursday line-up, a quintet made up of Hopkins, Alun Davies, Jon Mark, Harvey Burns and Brian Odgers. The band completed their eponymous debut album, however the project was doomed from the start. Their record label, Fontana Records didn't promote the album, and declared bankruptcy before the members could tour.
He released his second solo album in 1973 entitled The Tin Man Was a Dreamer. Other musicians appearing on the album include George Harrison (credited as George O'Hara), Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, and Prairie Prince, who was later the drummer for the subversive punk band The Tubes. Re-released on Columbia in 2004, the album is a rare opportunity to hear Hopkins sing.
His third solo album, entitled No More Changes (Mercury SRM 11028), was released in 1975 Appearing on the album are Hopkins (lead vocals and all keyboards), David Tedstone (guitars), Michael Kennedy (guitars), Rick Willis (bass), and Eric Dillon (drums and percussion), with back-up vocals from Kathi MacDonals, Lea Santo-Robertie, Doug, Duffy and Dolly. Recorded in London and mixed and mastered in Los Angeles, this is probably Hopkins' best solo album.
A fourth album, Long Journey Home, remains unreleased. He also released three soundtrack albums in Japan between 1992 and 1993, The Fugitive, Patio, and Namiki Family (Toshiba EMI TOCT-6640, TOCT-6841, and TOCT-6914).
Hopkins lived in Mill Valley, California, for several years. During this time he worked with several local dealer bands and continued to record in San Francisco. At the Church Studio in San Anselmo, Marin County, a small jam band formed around Nicky: Bruce Walford, guitar, Larry Holman, drums,and Reb Blake, bass. Hopkins would play his songs and spin tales of his time in London's early rock scene and his father's piano playing in England during World War Two. Hopkins never allowed any of these sessions to be recorded, citing his complete disgust with the music business. One of his complaints throughout his career was that he did not receive royalties from any of his recording sessions, because of his status at the time as merely a "hired hand", as opposed to pop stars with agents. Only Quicksilver Messenger Service through its manager Ron Polti and its members gave Hopkins an ownership stake.
As a session player, Hopkins was renowned for his ability to give accomplished performances with little or no rehearsal, and for his quirky habit of reading comic books at recording sessions. The classic Kinks song "Session Man" from Face to Face is dedicated to (and features) Hopkins. The Kinks' Ray Davies wrote a memorial piece that appeared in the New York Times after Hopkins' death.
A member of the Church of Scientology, he was awarded the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) Freedom Medal in October 1989.
Hopkins died aged 50, in Nashville, Tennessee, of complications from intestinal surgery. At the time of his death he was working on his autobiography with Ray Coleman. He was survived by his wife, Moira.
* The Who, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" (1965), My Generation album (1965), "The Song Is Over" (1971), "Getting In Tune" (1971), "We're Not Gonna Take It [movie remix]" (1975), "They Are All in Love" (1975), "Slip Kid" (1975)
* The Kinks, The Kink Kontroversy (1965), Face to Face (1966), "Mr. Pleasant" (1967), "Village Green" (1968), "Berkeley Mews" (1968)
* Jeff Beck, "Blues De Luxe", "Morning Dew" (1967), Truth (1967), "Girl From Mill Valley", Beck-Ola (1969)
* Cat Stevens, "Matthew and Son" (1967), Matthew and Son (1967)
* Marc Bolan, "Jasper C. Debussy" (1966-7, released 1974)
* The Rolling Stones, "She's a Rainbow" (1967), "Sympathy for the Devil" (1968), "No Expectations" (1968), "Gimme Shelter" (1969), "Monkey Man" (1969), "Sway" (1970), "Tumbling Dice" (1972), "Torn and Frayed" (1972), Exile on Main St. album (1972), "Angie" (1973), "Time Waits for No One" (1974), "Fool to Cry" (1976), "Waiting on a Friend" (1981)
* Jackie Lomax, "Sour Milk Sea" (1968)
* Led Zeppelin, "Rock and Roll" (1969)
* The Beatles, "Revolution" (single version) (1968)
* The Move, "Hey Grandma", "Mist on a Monday Morning", "Wild Tiger Woman" (all 1968)
* Jamming With Edward [jam session with Ry Cooder and some members of the Rolling Stones] (recorded 1969, released 1972)
* Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Shady Grove", "Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder", "Spindrifter"
* Jefferson Airplane, "Volunteers" (1969), "Eskimo Blue Day" (1969), "Hey Fredrick" (1969)
* The Steve Miller Band "Kow Kow Calqulator", "Baby's House".
* John Lennon, "Jealous Guy" (1971), "Oh My Love" (1971), "Oh Yoko" (1971), "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (1971), Walls and Bridges album (1974)
* George Harrison, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" (1973)
* Joe Cocker, "You Are So Beautiful" (1974)
* L. Ron Hubbard, "The Mining Song" (1982), "The Banker" (1982)
* Dogs D'Amour, "Hurricane", "Trail of Tears", and "Princes Valium" from the Errol Flynn/King Of The Thieves album (1989)
* The Jayhawks, "Waiting for the Sun" and other tracks from the Hollywood Town Hall album (1992)