Nicky Hopkins

Nicky Hopkins
Birth name Nicholas Christian Hopkins
Born 24 February 1944(1944-02-24)
Perivale, North London, England
Died 6 September 1994(1994-09-06) (aged 50)
Nashville, Tennessee
Genres Rock
Occupations Session musician
Instruments Keyboards (piano, organ, harpsichord, mellotron), melodica, accordion, vocals
Years active 1960s–1985
Labels Fontana Records
Associated acts Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman, The Easybeats, The Who, The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Jeff Beck, Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, The Kinks, Badfinger, Jerry Garcia Band, Mark-Almond Band, Sweet Thursday, Steve Miller Band, Cat Stevens, Harry Nilsson, David Bowie, Duncan Browne, Jackie Lomax, Screaming Lord Sutch, Carly Simon, Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton, Art Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Terry and the Pirates, Andy McCoy

Nicholas Christian "Nicky" Hopkins (24 February 1944 – 6 September 1994) was an English pianist and organist.

He recorded and performed on noted British and American popular music recordings of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as a session musician.[1]



Early life

Hopkins was born in Perivale, North London, England. His musical talent emerged early and he began playing piano at age three. He was initially tutored by a local piano teacher and in his teens he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London.[2] He suffered from Crohn's disease from his youth. Poor health and ongoing surgery made it difficult for him to tour. This resulted in him working primarily as a studio player for most of his career.

Early groups and as a session musician

Hopkins' studies were interrupted in 1960 when he left school at 16 to became the pianist with Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages until, two years later, he and fellow Savages Bernie Watson, Rick Brown (Fenson) and Carlo Little, joined the renowned blues harmonica player Cyril Davies, who had just left Blues Incorporated, and became the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars.[2] Hopkins played piano on their first single, Davies' much-admired theme tune "Country Line Special".[3] However he was forced to leave the All Stars in May 1963 for a series of operations that almost cost him his life and was bed-ridden for nineteen months in his late 'teens. During his convalescence Davies died of leukaemia and The All Stars disbanded.[2]

Hopkins' frail health led him to concentrate on a working as a session musician instead of joining band such as The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. [4] He quickly became one of London's most in-demand session pianists and performed on many hit recordings from this period. He worked extensively for leading UK independent producers Shel Talmy and Andrew Loog Oldham and performed on albums and singles by The Kinks, The Pretty Things, The Move and The Who.

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,[5] playing on the LPs Truth and Beck-Ola.

The same year Hopkins recorded Beggar's Banquet with The Rolling Stones (he had first worked for them on Between the Buttons). He also recorded for several San Franciscan groups, playing on albums by Jefferson Airplane (with whom he performed at the Woodstock Festival), The New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Steve Miller Band. He briefly joined Quicksilver Messenger Service and also appeared with the Jerry Garcia Band.[6]

At this point he was one of Britain's best-known session players, recording with British acts of the Sixties, including The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and on the solo albums of all four members, on several Nilsson albums in the early 70s, including Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson, and with Donovan.

With the Rolling Stones

Hopkins played with The Rolling Stones on their studio albums from Between the Buttons in 1967 through Emotional Rescue in 1980 and Tattoo You in 1981, including the prominent piano parts in "She's a Rainbow" (1967), "Sympathy for the Devil" (1968), "Loving Cup" (1972) and "Waiting on a Friend" (1981). During this period, Hopkins tended to be employed on the Stones' slower, ballad-type songs, with longtime Stones keyboardist Ian Stewart playing on traditional rock numbers and Billy Preston used on soul and funk-influenced tunes. 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.[why?] The "Edward" of the title was an alias of Nicky Hopkins, derived from studio banter with Brian Jones and later became a song title on his outstanding performance, "Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder", a song from Quicksilver Messenger Service's Shady Grove LP. Hopkins' master piece with the Stones was Exille On main Street (1972), where he is prominent on most tracks.

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 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.[7] He continued to record with the Stones through the sessions for 1980's Emotional Rescue.

Other groups and solo albums

In 1969, Nicky Hopkins joined Quicksilver Messenger Service and performed on their album Shady Grove. His presence is apparent throughout the album, particularly on the closing instrumental track "Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder".

Also in 1969, Hopkins was a member of the short-lived Sweet Thursday line-up, a quintet made up of Hopkins, Alun Davies (Cat Stevens), Jon Mark, Harvey Burns and Brian Odgers. The band completed their eponymous debut album, however the project was doomed from the start. Their American record label, Tetragrammaton Records, abruptly declared bankruptcy[8][9] (by legend, the same day the album was released)[10] with promotion and a possible tour never happening.

Sweet Thursday; Left to Right: Hopkins, Alun Davies, Mark, Burns, Odgers

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 humor/novelty rock 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 Wills (bass), and Eric Dillon (drums and percussion), with back-up vocals from Kathi McDonald, Lea Santo-Robertie, Doug Duffey and Dolly. A fourth album, Long Journey Home, has remained 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).

Later life

Hopkins lived in Mill Valley, California, for several years. During this time he worked with several local bands and continued to record in San Francisco. 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 Polte and its members gave Hopkins an ownership stake.[citation needed] Towards the end of his life he worked as a composer and orchestrator of film scores, with considerable success in Japan.

As a session player, Hopkins was a quick study. The Kinks' song "Session Man" from Face to Face is said to be dedicated to (and features) Hopkins.[citation needed] Ray Davies wrote a memorial piece that appeared in the New York Times after Hopkins' death. [4]


Hopkins died aged 50, in Nashville, Tennessee, of complications from intestinal surgery, presumably related to Hopkins' Crohn's Disease. At the time of his death, he was working on his autobiography with Ray Coleman. He is survived by his wife, Moira.[citation needed] Songwriter and musician Julian Dawson collaborated with Hopkins on one recording, the pianist's last, in spring 1994, a few months before his death in September. After Ray Coleman's death, the connection led to Dawson working on a definitive biography of Nicky Hopkins, first published by Random House, Inc. in German in 2010, followed in 2011 by the English language version with the title And On Piano...Nicky Hopkins (a hardback in the UK via Desert Hearts, and a paperback in North America via Backstage Books/Plus One Press).

Selected performances


  1. ^ Chris Welch, 9 Sept. 1994. Obituary: Nicky Hopkins, The Independent (<>
  2. ^ a b c Nicky Hopkins official website - biography
  3. ^ Bodganov, Vladimir, et al. (2003). All Music Guide to the Blues (3rd ed.). Backbeat Books. pp. 140. ISBN 0879307366. 
  4. ^ a b Ray Davies on Nicky Hopkins, from The New York Times, January 1, 1995
  5. ^ Hoffmann, Frank W. (ed.) (rev. 2005). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, p. 83. CRC Press. ISBN 041593835X.
  6. ^ Fenton, Craig (November 22, 2006). Take Me to a Circus Tent: The Jefferson Airplane Flight Manual. Infinity Publishing. pp. 155–56. ISBN 0741436566. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Blair (2000). Garcia: An American Life, pp. 269-70. Penguin. ISBN 0140291997.
  8. ^ Callahan, Mike; Eyries, Patrice; and Edwards, Dave (25 March 2008). "Tetragrammaton Album Discography". Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Deep Purple [1969]: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  10. ^ George-Warren, Holly; Romanowski, Patricia; Pareles, Jon, eds (2001). The Rolling stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (3rd ed.). Fireside Books. p. 608. ISBN 0743201205. 
  11. ^ Matt Kent and Andy Neill, liner notes to The Who--The Ultimate Collection, p. 4, (MCA Records, 2002)
  12. ^ Leng, Simon (2006). While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, p. 126. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1423406095.
  13. ^ Drakoulias, George (2011). Album notes for Hollywood Town Hall by The Jayhawks, pp. 9-11 [booklet]. American Recordings (88697 72731 2).

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nicky Hopkins — (* 24. Februar 1944 in London, England; † 6. September 1994 in Nashville, Tennessee) war ein britischer Rock Musiker. Er spielte Klavier u. a. bei Cyril Davies, den Rolling Stones, der Jeff Beck Group und der Steve Miller Band.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nicky Hopkins — Datos generales Origen Harlesden, Londres Información artística Género(s) Rock …   Wikipedia Español

  • Nicky Hopkins — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Nicky. Nicky Hopkins, né le 24 février 1944 à Londres et mort le 6 septembre 1994 à Nashville, est un pianiste et organiste britannique. Il a joué comme musicien de studio sur de nombreux… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nicky — ist ein männlicher und weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Varianten 3 Bekannte Namensträger 4 Siehe auch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nicky — is a diminutive form of the name Nicholas, occasionally used as a given name in its own right. It may refer to: In pop culture: Nicky Hilton, American and fashion designer, sister of Paris Hilton In sports: Nicky Adams, English born Welsh… …   Wikipedia

  • Hopkins (Name) — Hopkins ist ein Familienname und ein Vorname aus dem angelsächsischen Sprachbereich. Bekannte Namensträger des Familiennamens Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hopkins — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sommaire 1 Patronyme 2 Comté 3 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nicky — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Nicky est un prénom (diminutif de Nicholas) notamment porté par : Nicky Hayden Nicky Jam Nicky Hopkins Nicky Larson Nicky Hilton Nicky Butt… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nicky Morgan (politician) — Nicky Morgan MP Member of Parliament for Loughborough Incumbent Assumed office …   Wikipedia

  • Nicky Hayden — Hayden in 2009. Nationality American Born July 30, 1981 (1981 0 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.