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King Crimson and Foreigner multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald dies aged 75

Ian McDonald (front) onstage in 1995 with Roy Wood, Steve Howe and Tom Petersson
Ian McDonald (front) onstage in 1995 with Roy Wood, Steve Howe and Tom Petersson (Image credit: Ebet Roberts / Getty)

Ian McDonald, a founding member of King Crimson and Foreigner, has passed away, aged 75.

McDonald’s son announced the news of his father’s death on Facebook, saying: ”I’m deeply saddened to tell you that my father passed away yesterday from cancer. He was incredibly brave, and never lost his kindness or his sense of humour even when the going was rough.

“My father was a brilliant, intuitive musician, a gentle soul, and a wonderful dad. He will live on forever through his beautiful music and the love of his fans. Thank you all.”

McDonald was one of the founding members of King Crimson, joining the original 1968 line-up – alongside Robert Fripp, Greg Lake and Michael Giles – and lending his skills on keys, woodwinds and reed instruments. 

In particular, McDonald’s saxophone playing formed a crucial element of the band’s iconic debut, In the Court of the Crimson King.

Robert Fripp acknowledged McDonald’s contribution in the sleeve notes for 1997’s Epitaph boxset, stating that, “Ian brought musicality, an exceptional sense of the short and telling melodic line, and the ability to express that on a variety of instruments.”

Fripp has also since shared his reaction to McDonald’s passing on social media, posting, “My condolences to Max, family and friends. Fly well, Brother”.

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A few years after his departure from King Crimson, McDonald was involved in co-founding another major group, joining pan-Atlantic AOR hit-makers Foreigner. Again, his musical contributions spanned multiple instruments, including guitar, saxophone and keys.

McDonald’s playing appeared on hits like Cold As Ice, Feels Like The First Time, Hot Blooded and Double Vision, and his tenure with the band lasted until 1980.

In later years, McDonald reunited with some of his former Crimson colleagues in offshoot group 21st Century Schizoid Band, which also featured Mel Collins, plus Michael and Peter Giles.

Jerry Ewing, editor of Prog magazine, stated that McDonald’s legacy ran far beyond that first King Crimson record: “Though he only appeared on the band’s debut album – 1969’s In The Court Of The Crimson King – he was instrumental in defining the band’s lasting prog-rock sound.”

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Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.