John Lawton, Former Vocalist for Uriah Heep, Dies at 74

by Matthew Wilson

John Lawton has died. The singer was the former vocalist for the long-running British rock band Uriah Heep, recording three albums. Lawton passed away on June 29. But the band just recently confirmed his death to the public. He was 74-years-old.

According to Deadline, the band confirmed he passed away from undisclosed causes. According to the band, Lawton had no prior illnesses, making his death a shock to many. Lawton reportedly passed away in bed with his wife by his side.

“It is with deep regret that we share the devastating and tragic news of the sudden and totally unexpected passing of John Lawton on 29 June 2021,” Uriah Heep wrote on its official Twitter account. “John will be greatly missed.”

Lawton was the second singer for Uriah Heep, joining the band in 1976. The British rock band had already found mainstream success when Lawton joined as its vocalist. First forming in 1969, Uriah Heep derived their name from a Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield.” They quickly found success with both “Easy Livin'” in 1972 and followed up with 1973’s single “Stealin” as well.

David Byron originally voiced the band but quit in 1976. Lawton joined soon after, having a successful three years with Uriah Heep. He performed on three studio albums: “Firefly,” “Innocent Victim,” and “Fallen Angel” as well. He also featured on the band’s live 1979 album “Live in Europe ’79.”

That same year, Lawton ended up parting ways with the band. But the group stayed on good terms. And Lawton played a big role in the success of the song “Free Me” in 1977, cementing his legacy with the group.

“We’re good friends,” he said in 2014. “I always say, ‘Once you join the Heep family, you never leave, regardless.’ And I’m always there for them if they need help. I’ll always step in.”

John Lawton and His Legacy

John Lawton got his start performing with German bands Lucifer’s Friend and Les Humphries Singers. He continued to perform even after leaving Uriah Heep. For instance, he played with Rebel, GunHill, and also the Hensley Lawton Band.

“Music has given wholeness to me,” Lawton said in a 2002 interview. “Everything that’s happened is a wholeness to me, because I’ve done all the things I wanted to. You say, ‘Oh, I’d like to make a record’ – and you make a record; you say, ‘I’d like to do some live gigs’ – so you do some live gigs; ‘I’d like to have a record in the charts’ – so you have a record in the charts; ‘I’d like to be a No. 1’ – so you’ve got number one: ‘Free Me’ went to No. 1; ‘I’d like to record under my own name’ – so you record under your own name. So everything that I wanted to do has come true.”

Lawton’s wife survives him. His family is planning to hold a small private funeral in his honor.