Raymond Thomas "Ray" Cooper (born 19 September 1942) is an English musician. He is a session and road-tour percussionist, and occasional actor, who has worked with several musically diverse bands and artists including George Harrison, Billy Joel, Rick Wakeman, Eric Clapton, and Elton John. Cooper absorbed the influence of rock drummers from the 1960s and 1970s such as Ginger Baker, Carmine Appice, and John Bonham. Incorporation of unusual instruments (for rock drummers of the time) such as cowbells, glockenspiel, and tubular bells, along with several standard kit elements, helped create a highly varied setup. Continually modified to this day, Cooper's percussion set offers an enormous array of percussion instruments for sonic diversity such as the tambourine, congas, crash cymbals, cowbells, roto toms, tubular bells, the gong, snare and timpani. For two decades Cooper honed his technique; In the 1990s, he reinvented his style. He is known for the 7-minute percussion and drum solos he performed during the years 1990-1991 for Eric Clapton and for the 7-minute percussion and drum solos during the year 1994 during all the Face to Face Tours with Billy Joel, and Elton John, and the tours with the Elton John band during the years of 1994-1995.
Life and career:
Cooper was born in Watford, Hertfordshire. Most notable is his work with Elton John, with whom he has played on nearly every album.
Cooper had a short stint with The Rolling Stones playing percussion for their 1974 It's Only Rock'n Roll album. Later in that decade he recorded with George Harrison, Wings and Art Garfunkel.
In the late 1970s Cooper toured with Elton John as a duo in which Elton would play a solo set and then be joined by Cooper on percussion for the second half of the concerts. The tour included concerts in Russia (1979), and in the course of the tour Cooper became a massive favourite with Elton John fans for his expressive energy and his incredible solos. Fans show up with signs for Cooper at every concert. The success of the "Solo" tour with Elton John was repeated in 1993-1994 when he and Elton John brought their two-man show to a new generation in the United States. During that time, Cooper was also featured as part of a Disney Channel concert telecast, A Special Evening With Elton John, recorded September 1994 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Most recently, Cooper reunited with Elton John in the autumn of 2009, with a series of shows in France and Italy. Some of the earliest dates were as follows: 24 September: Nantes Zenith de Paris, 26 September: Amneville Le Galaxie, 27 September: Grenoble Palais Des Sports, 29 September: Milan Mediolanum Forum, 30 September: Toulouse Zenith and 2 October: Palais des congrès de Paris. (Note: this is an incomplete list).
Ray Cooper's relationship with the Rolling Stones continued into the 1980s. In 1981, Cooper contributed to Bill Wyman's third solo album. In 1983, he participated in a short tour for the Ronnie Lane ARMS Charity Concert along with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and other stars (including Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts). Cooper showed up on Christine McVie's self-titled solo album in 1984. In 1985, Cooper appeared on both Mick Jagger's She's the Boss album and Bill Wyman's Willie & The Poor Boys. In 1997, he guested this time, with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings for Struttin' Our Stuff.
He is notable for his intense, hard-working percussion and drum solos for Eric Clapton (1990), Elton John (1994-1995), in the 1992 Eric Clapton Unplugged performance as well as playing in the 2002 Concert for George, a tribute to deceased former Beatle George Harrison (he also served as a producer of the film). In 1997 he performed at the Music for Montserrat concert and can be seen in the DVD of the event. He contributed to the tribute concert for Jim Capaldi in January 2007. He also worked on Katie Melua's album Pictures (2007).
During 1994 and 1995 "Face to Face" tours with Billy Joel, and during Elton John's tours in 1995, Elton John played "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", which then flowed into a solo done by Cooper on percussion. Cooper would perform a 7-minute percussion/drum solo, at the end of which he would complete a "360" on the drums. He would break three drum sets by repetitive, extremely fast movements, lead the audience in a chant, then strike a giant gong nine times while John closed the segment with "Pinball Wizard". In the 1995 "Evening With Elton John and Ray Cooper" tour, the two men performed in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Costa Rica, where Elton performed a solo set of songs, then was joined by Cooper on percussion for the second half of the show.
In every tour during 1990, Eric Clapton and the band played "Sunshine of your Love", which then flowed clearly into a short one-minute drum solo by Steve Ferrone (drummer for Clapton's band on the tour), then into a 7-minute percussion solo by Ray Cooper on the tambourine, congas, and gong. In the middle of the solo he led the audience into a chant lasting about a minute, then finished the solo by shredding the conga drums with his hands, and breaking the giant gong after striking it 10 times. The band then rejoined the song, which completed the show.
He has also worked in films, playing small roles such as the preacher in Robert Altman's feature film Popeye (1980) starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. He has also produced and performed music in several of Terry Gilliam's productions, appearing on-screen in quirky roles like the technician who swats the beetle at the beginning of Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil and as the functionary whispering in the ear of Jonathan Pryce's Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson character in 1989's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He also appeared in the "Concert for Cascara" in the 1985 film Water, and appears as a street commercial for The Zero Theorem.
The role of Albert Arthur Moxey in the hit television series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was written for Cooper by friends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, with the character originally being conceived as an Irishman, after Cooper expressed an interest in becoming an actor. The role was however given to Christopher Fairbank, who opted to play him as a scouser, due to Cooper being unable to make it to the audition. The character of Moxey was given only limited lines and screentime in the first series of "Pet" due to Cooper's acting inexperience.
In early 2012, Elton John and Ray Cooper performed a small exclusive series of shows outside of the US. This is the first time since 1995 that Cooper and John toured together without a band.