Later Life and Cancer
The death of Ray Thomas shook the world, but even in his later years he still found time for music.
By the turn of the century Ray Thomas had been with the Moody Blues for almost forty years, but his health was failing him. In 2002 he announced he was retiring for good. A condition known as cerebral ataxia meant he struggled to maintain his balance making performing impossible.
During his retirement he married his long-time girlfriend Lee Lightle in a ceremony at the church of the Holy Cross in Mwnt Ceredigion, Wales. It was a church that his grandfather had once worked on as a carpenter.
He remastered his two solo studio albums from the seventies on a box set including a new song, ‘The Trouble with Memories’ and a remastered quad version of ‘From Mighty Oaks’. The release also included previously unseen promo video of ‘High Above My Head’.
He kept his fans up to date via his website, but in 2013 was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. He kept the diagnosis private for two years, but after the death of his friend Alvin Stardust he decided to go public.
In a statement on his website he wrote.
“After the tragic death of Alvin Stardust and the brave response to Prostate Awareness by his widow, Julie, in following up on what Alvin had intended to say about the disease, I have decided to help in some small way. I was diagnosed in September 2013 with prostate cancer. My cancer was in-operable but I have a fantastic doctor who immediately started me on a new treatment that has had 90% success rate. The cancer is being held in remission but I’ll be receiving this treatment for the rest of my life. I have four close friends who have all endured some kind of surgery or treatment for this cancer and all are doing well. While I don’t like to talk publicly about my health problems, after Alvin’s death, I decided it was time I spoke out. A cancer diagnosis can shake your world and your family’s but if caught in time it can be cured or held in remission. I urge all males to get tested NOW. Don’t put it off by thinking it won’t happen to me. It needs to be caught early. It’s only a blood test – a few minutes out your day to save yourself from this disease. Love and God Bless, Ray.”
While his health failed him, he began playing music once again. He played the flute for the sone “L´urlo nelle ossa”, on the 2016 album Eros & Thanatos by Italian band Syndone and contributed to the track “Simply Magic” on his old friend John Lodge’s 2015 album 10,000 Light Years Ago. He also recorded with Moody Bluegrass, a progressive rock project which produced two tribute albums to the Moody Blues. The albums included covers produced by famous bluegrass musicians.
He died on January 4th, 2018, six days after his 76th birthday at his home in Surrey. His record company gave no official cause in their announcement.
His long-time band mate Lodge said: “Ray was my best pal. I met Ray when I was 14. We were two young kids from Birmingham who were reaching for the stars”
In April he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of the classic Moody Blues Lineup.