Denny Laine, Paul McCartney & Wings, Moody Blues guitarist, dies at 79

Denny Laine performs onstage at Bogie's in Westlake Village, California on February 1, 2018
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Denny Laine – the celebrated guitarist who co-founded Moody Blues, and played alongside Paul McCartney in his post-Beatles band, Wings – has died at the age of 79. 

His wife, Elizabeth Hines, announced the news on Instagram, writing that the guitarist had been suffering from Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). 

“My darling husband passed away peacefully early this morning,” Hines wrote. “I was at his bedside, holding his hand as I played his favorite Christmas songs for him. He’s been singing Christmas songs the past few weeks and I continued to play Christmas songs while he’s been in ICU on a ventilator this past week.

“He and I both believed he would overcome his health setbacks and return to the rehabilitation center and eventually home. Unfortunately, his lung disease, Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), is unpredictable and aggressive; each infection weakened and damaged his lungs. He fought everyday. He was so strong and brave – never complained. All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar.

“Denny was so very thankful to all of you who sent him so much love, support and the many kind words during these past few months of his health crisis – it brought him to tears.

“My world will never be the same. Denny was an amazingly wonderful person, so loving and sweet to me. He made my days colorful, fun and full of life – just like him. Thank you sweetie for loving me, for all the laughter, friendship, fun and for asking me to be your wife. I will love you forever.

“Please give Denny’s friends and family the time and privacy needed as we grieve our loss.”

Born in Birmingham in 1944, Laine picked up the guitar at a young age and – by the time he was 20 – had formed the Moody Blues with four other Birmingham musicians. Though he'd leave the group in late 1966 – before arguably their most iconic era – Laine played guitar and sang lead on the group's smash hit cover of Bessie Banks' Go Now.

After his departure from the Moody Blues, Laine began a solo career, and would also join – for a short time in 1970 – Ginger Baker's Air Force, appearing on the band's self-titled debut live album. 

During this time, though, the Beatles – with whom Laine became acquainted during his time with the Moody Blues – were going their separate ways. For his new band, Wings, Paul McCartney approached Laine, who quickly accepted a spot in the group.

Remaining with the band for the entirety of their existence (the only member of Wings aside from Paul and Linda McCartney to hold that distinction) Laine was an integral part of Wings' sound, doubling McCartney's parts, or adding color and depth where needed. 

“If Paul writes a song on guitar, and it’s a very simple thing, I would probably just try to add to that,” Laine explained to Guitar World of the band's process in an interview earlier this year. “I wouldn’t be the main rhythm guitarist, because what the song needed was accompaniment. 

“I was always pretty in with what Paul was playing, which probably makes it sound more like one part. We did that a lot, where I would play lead parts in unison with him, like on Helen Wheels [from Band on the Run].”

Though not the group's star attraction, Laine was integral to their framework, helping keep Wings together during the infamously troubled sessions for what would become their best-known and most-acclaimed album, Band on the Run. Though he – by his own admission – rarely took solos with Wings, Laine's soulful lead break on that album's Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five is a terrific display of his skill and soulful voice on the instrument.

After Wings' dissolution in 1981, Laine maintained a prolific solo career, and toured frequently. Laine played live even well into 2023, revisiting classics from both his Moody Blues and Wings years.

“I can’t be strictly a studio guy. That’s how I came up, playing live,” Laine told Guitar World earlier this year. “I think that’s the way the best records are made. You take that energy you get from performance and bring it into the studio. Then you come out with something good. It’s a hard thing to do in this business, but that’s what you need to do. It’s all about balance.”   

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.