Robert Wayne Birch, July 14, 1956 – August 15, 2012
Bob Birch was bass player and backing vocalist in the Elton John Band for twenty years, performing at 1,441 Elton John concerts and on over 50 studio songs.
He played saxophone, bass and bassoon throughout his school years and graduated from Wayne State University with a performance and education degree. Bob followed up his degree with a one year stint as a music teacher, but he did not find teaching to his liking and decided to move on to bigger things.
In the early 80s, Bob moved to Los Angeles, where his music career began to flourish. He started off playing in local clubs, joining numerous bands and signing various recording deals. It was during this time that he made many of the friends that were to figure prominently in his career, including future Elton John percussionist, John Mahon, who was then playing in a group called The Stickmen.
During this time he also met keyboardist Guy Babylon, and the two became members of the group Ashton. In 1988 Guy joined the Elton John Band as keyboard player, remaining in the band until his untimely death in 2009. In 1991, Bob and Guy joined up with Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and Billy Trudel to form the band Warpipes. The group recorded one album together, Holes in the Heavens.
During his musical career Bob performed live or recorded with many of the greatest artists, including Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Lionel Richie, David Coverdale, Sheryl Crow, Tammy Wynette, Steve Wonder, LeAnn Rimes, Leon Russell and Billy Joel.
In 1992, Musical Director Davey Johnstone asked Bob to join the Elton John band during its tour to promote the album The One. Bob went on to tour with Elton John extensively throughout the world, and also to record the albums Made in England, The Big Picture, One Night Only (live), The Road to El Dorado, Peachtree Road, The Captain And The Kid and the Gnomeo & Juliet soundtrack.
Billy Joel, who has toured extensively with Elton and his band, said of Bob: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch.
He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much."
Bob was the bass player with the longest tenure in the Elton John band, and had just completed a summer tour of Europe with Elton, including the memorable performance at Buckingham Palace in The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert. In September 2012 he was due to start a North American tour with Elton and the band.
Elton John said: “I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch. My heart goes out to Bob’s wife Michele, his son Jonathan and his family.
To me Bob was family. He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1400 concerts together. He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note.
I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace.”
Bob lived in Los Angeles with his wife, Michele, and they had one son, Jonathan.