Hawkwind Co-Founder Nik Turner Dies at 82

Hawkwind Co-Founder Nik Turner Dies at 82

His projects Sphynx, Inner City Unit, and Space Ritual helped change the history of psychedelic music

Nik Turner

Nik Turner, July 1976 (Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Nik Turner, co-founder and multi-instrumentalist for the British space-rock band Hawkwind, has died. A spokesperson for the musician announced his death on Facebook earlier today (November 11), noting that memorial arrangements are still in the works. “We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nik Turner—The Mighty Thunder Rider, who passed away peacefully at home on Thursday evening,” the statement said. “He has moved onto the next phase of his cosmic journey, guided by the love of his family, friends, and fans.” He was 82 years old.

Nicholas Robert Turner was born on August 26, 1940 in Oxford. The Turner family relocated to the town of Margate, Kent when Nik was 13, where he was first exposed to rock music. After a brief stint in the Merchant Navy, he set off to travel around Europe, taking menial jobs to fund his interest in music. Turner studied saxophone in his early twenties, but it wasn’t until his travels brought him to Berlin that he ever considered performing free jazz. “[These free jazz musicians] convinced me that you didn’t need to be technical to express yourself,” he told Mojo in 1999. “I decided that what I wanted to do was play free jazz in a rock band. What I was trying to do in Hawkwind, basically.”

Turner was an old friend of Dave Brock, and shortly after Brock came together with Mick Slattery, John Harrison, and Terry Ollis to form Hawkwind, Turner offered to work as a roadie for the band, which he eventually joined. His abilities as a flautist and saxophonist led to his growing involvement with the band, co-writing songs like “Brainstorm” and “Master of the Universe.” In 1976, Turner was kicked out of the band, eventually rejoining the group in 1982 before leaving again two years later. His time with Hawkwind notably overlapped with that of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, who joined the band in 1971 before leaving to form Motörhead four years later. 

Upon his initial departure from the group, Turner traveled to Egypt, where he was inspired to record flute music inside of the Pyramids. The recordings became the basis for Sphynx, a new project featuring Alan Powell, Mike Howlett, Tim Blake, and Harry Williamson. The group released their debut album album, Xitintoday, in 1978. Turner recorded music under other monikers including Inner City Unit, Nik Turner’s Fantastic All Stars, and Space Ritual, the latter of which released their second studio album, Otherworld, in 2007.

“I have a very casual attitude to all this—to me, it’s entertainment,” he told the Quietus in 2013. “But entertainment with an agenda, really. Of spreading joy and love and that sort of thing. I mean, I worry about being too overtly hippy, but peace and love are not fashionable sentiments in some quarters and I think they should be.”

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