"He was an outstanding vocalist and guitar player" – Paul McCartney leads tributes to Denny Laine as the Wings and Moody Blues founder passes away aged 89

English singer-songwriter and former Wings and Moody Blues guitarist, Denny Laine posed wearing a leather jacket outside near an harbor 1981
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Wings and Moody Blues founder member, guitarist and vocalist Denny Laine died at the age of 79 on 5 December in Naples, Florida, after suffering from interstitial lung disease.

"My darling husband passed away peacefully early this morning," wrote his wife Elizabeth Hines to announce the sad news on Lane's social media channels. "I was at his bedside, holding his hand as I played his favorite Christmas songs for him. He’s been singing Christmas songs the past few weeks and I continued to play Christmas songs while he’s been in ICU on a ventilator this past week.

"He and I both believed he would overcome his health setbacks and return to the rehabilitation center and eventually home," added Hines. "Unfortunately, his lung disease, Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), is unpredictable and aggressive; each infection weakened and damaged his lungs. He fought everyday. He was so strong and brave, never complained.

"All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar.

"Denny was so very thankful to all of you who sent him so much love, support and the many kind words during these past few months of his health crisis-it brought him to tears."

One musician who had reconnected with Laine recently was his old Wings bandmate, Paul McCartney, who paid his own personal tribute.

"I am very saddened to hear that my ex-bandmate, Denny Laine, has died, Paul McCartney wrote in salute to the musician he formed the first line-up of Wings with in 1971.

We had drifted apart but in recent years managed to reestablish our friendship and share memories of our times together

Paul McCartney

"I have many fond memories of my time with Denny: from the early days when The Beatles toured with the Moody Blues. Our two bands had a lot of respect for each other and a lot of fun together. Denny joined Wings at the outset. He was an outstanding vocalist and guitar player. His most famous performance is probably Go Now, an old Bessie Banks song which he would sing brilliantly. He and I wrote some songs together the most successful being Mull Of Kintyre which was a big hit in the Seventies. We had drifted apart but in recent years managed to reestablish our friendship and share memories of our times together.

"Denny was a great talent with a fine sense of humour and was always ready to help other people," McCartney added. "He will be missed by all his fans and remembered with great fondness by his friends. I send my condolences and best wishes to his wife, Elizabeth and family.

"Peace and love Denny. It was a pleasure to know you. We are all going to miss you. Love, Paul."

Before his decade with Wings, Denny Laine was a founder member of the Moody Blues as their guitarist from 1964 to 1966. Born Brian Frederick Hines, he was inspired to play by listening to Django Reinhardt and a love of gypsy jazz that stayed with him through his life. After adopting his stage name and fronting his first pro band, Denny Laine And The Diplomats, the young guitarist went on to be invited to join the Moody Blues, singing lead vocal on their first hit, Go Now.

He actively contributed as a songwriter for the band during his short tenure, including co-writes with keyboardist Mike Pinder on UK hits From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You) and "Everyday, and several b-sides, before quitting in October 1966. 

After solo stints and projects the Electric String Band, Balls and Ginger Baker's Air Force, Laine joined with Paul and Linda McCartney for their new band Wings, where he was a frequent songwriter and contributed guitars, lead and backing vocals, keyboards, bass and woodwind. This core trio would record 1973's Band On The Run and the majority of sixth album, London Town. Laine's co-write with McCartney on non-album single Mull Of Kintyre would reach UK number one in 1977 and remain the highest-selling single in the country for seven years. 

“I’m not trying to downplay it, but I’m actually surprised we’re that well-remembered," he reflected to Guitar World earlier this year regarding Wings.  I’m just a normal musician who doesn’t really think about the fame side of it. That always surprises me, the fame side of it. For example, a lot of my solo stuff, I never really had a big hit, but then people will come up to me and say, ‘I’ve got all of your solo stuff. I know every song you’ve ever written.’ 

We don’t think of it in terms of how famous we were or how many people we influenced until we meet the fans. But it’s all about music for me

“It’s a compliment and it does give you a good feeling," he added. "You’ve gotten across to a lot more people than you thought you did. And it’s the same with Wings. We don’t think of it in terms of how famous we were or how many people we influenced until we meet the fans. But it’s all about music for me. It’s all about moving forward. We’re never really satisfied. 

“Even when a lot of people say, ‘Oh, that’s the greatest album, or I love this or that,’ we don’t. We say, ‘We loved doing it, but in retrospect, I think I could’ve done that better.’ Or, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ You never stop creating, and therefore you’re never 100 percent satisfied. You can’t be. But when the finished product goes out and a lot of people are happy with it, that’s good enough encouragement for me.”

Wings would remain Denny Laine's most commercially successful era as a musician, but as he moved into a solo career again with 1982's Anyone Can Fly, he also remained collaborative with McCartney, playing on the Beatle's Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace albums.  

That’s how I came up, playing live. I think that’s the way the best records are made

Laine continued to release solo albums, with the last being 2008's The Blue Musician. He played US dates through 2023, with his final headline show on 19 July at the Tin Pan in Richmond, Virginia. He had reportedly been working on a new album, too, explaining to Guitar World earlier this year how important both sides of his work were to him.

“I can’t be strictly a studio guy," Laine said. "That’s how I came up, playing live. I think that’s the way the best records are made. You take that energy you get from performance and bring it into the studio. Then you come out with something good. It’s a hard thing to do in this business, but that’s what you need to do. It’s all about balance.”   

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.