I wanted to write a few words today about our former colleague in the band who played at all our big shows. Neil Hatton played keyboards for nearly 30 years and sadly and suddenly passed away in 2021. I didn’t get to know him like a friend but over time you speak to each other in passing
Neil was by nature a retiring person. He was also a rock; you just knew he was one of those people who would be able to handle well any situation. Unruffled. You need people like that and like the rest of the band, he could mix up and play many different styles.
I can still picture him in 2004 at the Royal Albert Hall. The first number was a big wham, an in-your-face medley of hits – one from each decade in the twentieth century. Big and bold and brash ending with Let Me Entertain You.
Then suddenly we went to a song celebrating the years 1900-1905 and there was Neil playing solo piano. It was Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin. It was fun to go from noise and clamour to one instrument, but Neil calmly sat there seemingly impassively, and you hardly noticed his fingers move. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was pre-recorded, and he was just sitting there pretending. But he wasn’t – the tricky rhythms seemed effortless and they just poured out.
I think it was a mark of the gentleman. He seemed to possess the genuine humility and gentleness of the best performers. Sure, there are those with big egos and maybe sometimes those are necessary, but he was a man who was happy being part of a band, who didn’t draw attention to himself, got on with the job and did it so well you were barely aware of it.
On the day we projected his name and photo on the screen while a spotlight lit up an empty chair. He would probably wonder why we made such a fuss, but we wanted to remember him.
We salute you Neil for your professionalism, skill, and humility.