TORONTO (CelebrityAccess) — Internationally renowned Canadian keyboardist Michal Fonfara, who performed with the likes of Lou Reed and the Downchild Blues Band, died on January 8th. He was 74.
According to a statement from his publicist, Fonfara died in Toronto from complications of cancer after a two-year battle with the disease.
Born in Stevensville, ON, Canada in 1946, Fonfara’s first professional gig was playing keyboards for the Toronto band Lee Jackson & The Checkmates, later John and Lee & The Checkmates.
Fonfara also recorded with Lou Reed, serving as keyboardist and bandleader for decades, appearing on nine of Reed’s albums between 1974 and 2005, including 1974’s “Sally Can’t Dance” which peaked at #10 and remains Reed’s best-selling album to date.
He also toured with numerous other groups, including the Everly Brothers, Rhinoceros, Rough Trade, and the New York-based pop-rock group Tycoon.
As well, Fonfara was a longtime member of the Toronto-based blues supergroup Downchild Blues Band and won the Maple Blues Award for Piano/Keyboard Player of The Yearfor his work with the group four times between 2000 and 2009.
“He`s the best musician I`ve ever worked with,” said Downchild leader and co-founder Donnie Walsh.
“Yesterday we lost a brother, a band mate, a co-writer and a dear friend. If you met him, you loved him. A creative genius,” added Downchild bassist Gary Kendall.
Fonfara’s final recording took place in 2019 when Downchild recorded Live At The Toronto Jazz Festival, during 50th Anniversary party. During the show, Fonfara performed alongside special guests Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer, David Wilcox, Kenny Neal, Gene Taylor and Erja Lyytinen. The new album was just released worldwide on October 16, 2020.
Michael Fonfara is survived by his wife Avril, his daughters Ashley and Ciara and his grandchildren Brooklyn, Camden, Jamie, and Jaxon.