[Updated] Musician Ken Gordon, the son of the late Dr Edgar Fitzgerald Gordon who was named Bermuda’s National Hero, has died in the UK at age 86.
Mr Gordon was also the brother of former UBP Premier Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks and the present Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.
Update 1.11pm: Opposition Leader Marc Bean said, “On behalf of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party, our members and supporters, I wish to extend condolences to the family of Ken Gordon. At this time of loss, words can be of small comfort, but please know that the prayers and support of our people are with you at this time.
“As the son of Dr. E.F. Gordon, much of his time with his father would have been sacrificed, as he fought for freedom, justice and equality for Bermudians. We are grateful for the understanding and support that Mr. Gordon and his family gave to our national hero and pray that they are comforted at this time of sorrow.
“While Mr. Gordon’s sisters former Premier Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks and Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin may not share our political views, we are united with them in mourning and in compassion for their loss.”
The Obituary, as provided, is below:
We regret to announce the death in London, aged 86, of Ken Gordon, youngest son of the late Clara Marguerite Gordon [née Christian] and Dr Edgar Fitzgerald Gordon.
Born in Somerset, Bermuda, on 13 February 1927, Ken – the second boy after four previous girls – was said by his father to have been knighted at birth, being given names to fit the initials KCMG.
The Trinidad-born Dr Gordon [1895-1955] had settled in Bermuda in 1924 with his Dominican wife, after having studied medicine in Edinburgh and then conducting medical practice in Scotland and in Dominica. Clara [1895-1964] was a great influence on the early lives of her children; she had trained as a singer at Oberlin College, Ohio, before beginning medical studies at Edinburgh University, where she met and married Edgar, curtailing her studies.
Ken and his brother Teddy [1924-91; later known as Hakim] were initially educated in Bermuda: first, by his mother and a private tutor at the family home “Gordon Villa”, near Manchester Street, Somerset, and subsequently at the Bertha Higgins School at Tin Top, Sound View Road. They then attended the Berkeley Institute, where Ken was a bright though rebellious student, refusing to shave his beard – which he would keep for the rest of his life.
In 1944, the brothers boarded a ship sailing to Scotland, where they entered Edinburgh University, with the intention of studying medicine; their four sisters were also being educated overseas.
Unfortunately, despite assistance from their grandfather George James Christian [1868-1940], a barrister who had settled in West Africa in the Gold Coast [now Ghana], financial constraints forced Teddy and Ken to discontinue university studies. Instead they both began to make fuller use of the musical talents inherited from their maternal side, gaining popularity singing with local jazz bands.
Moving to London, in 1948 [the year his parliamentarian father Dr Gordon changed his name to “Mazumbo” in protest at the racist treatment of Black Bermudians] Ken formed a vocal group called the Four Tune-Tellers, the other members being Dennis Hayward, Irving Farren and Frankie [Frances] Smith.
However, Kenny soon moved on to join another group, the Three Just Men, alongside George Browne [otherwise known as the calypsonian Young Tiger] and Horace Dawson, presenting a repertoire that ranged from spirituals to bebop.
With Ken sometimes doubling on drums and piano, the group for the next two years toured throughout Europe [sharing a bill in Marseilles with Charlie Parker] and in North Africa.
On returning to London, Ken continued to play gigs as a regular drummer, in addition to performing as a mellow-voiced singer, not only in Britain but in Paris, Amsterdam and elsewhere on the continent.
Over the years he worked with notable musicians such as Humphrey Lyttelton, Cab Kaye, Shake Keane and Dizzy Reece, at many fashionable venues that included Mayfair’s Stork Club, Les Ambassadeurs, the Dorchester, L’Hirondelle and Gattopardo. In the 1963 film The Small World of Sammy Lee together with Jamaican bassist Coleridge Goode he appeared [uncredited] in a nightclub sequence featuring a piano trio.
Kenny was a well loved and respected figure on the London jazz scene: in later years, a regular at every concert of note mounted by Serious Music, an indefatigable after-hours companion to musicians and promoters, counting among his close friends the likes of veteran singer Tony Bennett, drummer Roy Haynes and trumpeter Guy Barker.
Kenny is survived by his son Tara, daughter Serena and wife Rene, his elder sister Marjorie Davis [mother of broadcaster Moira Stuart and Sandra Simmons and Sharon Davis-Murdoch], and many other family members in Britain, Ghana, Canada, the USA, the Caribbean and Bermuda, including his brother’s widow Kunu and her daughters Oonie, Lula, Aku and Mya.
Ken Gordon’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, 12 November 2013, at 12 noon, at the Chapel, Hendon Crematorium, Holders Hill Road, London NW7 1NB.
It will be followed by a gathering at The Three Hammers pub, The Ridgeway, Hammers Lane, NW7 4EA.
The family have requested no flowers, but ask that donations in Kenny’s name be sent to: The British Heart Foundation, Lyndon Place, 2096 Coventry Road, Sheldon, Birmingham B26 3YU, UK.