Greg Gilbert, frontman with British indie rock band Delays, has died of bowel cancer at the age of 44.
He had been diagnosed in 2016, and documented his illness in poetry, visual art and on social media. In August, he announced he had stopped taking treatment and was using only pain relief. He wrote on Twitter: “I still believe in magic, the power of a good gesture and laughter. I want to fill the days ahead with all of these and so much more.”
Formed in Southampton, Delays emerged from the fertile indie scene of the early 00s, though their tendency towards psychedelia and bright pop – topped with Gilbert’s striking, sometimes falsetto vocals – distinguished them from their peers.
First named Corky, the quartet changed their name to Idoru and released their debut EP in 2001. In 2003, they renamed themselves Delays and signed to Rough Trade Records, who released their debut album Faded Seaside Glamour in 2004. It reached the UK Top 20, as did the anthemic single Long Time Coming. Two further albums, You See Colours (2006) and Everything’s the Rush (2008), both reached the Top 30, though fourth album Star Tiger Star Ariel (2010) did not chart.
After his diagnosis, Gilbert, who had studied at Winchester art school, began drawing, painting and writing poetry. His artwork was exhibited alongside Leonardo da Vinci in a Southampton City Art Gallery exhibition, and his poetry was selected for publication by Carol Ann Duffy as part of her Laureate’s Choice series.
He and his family also successfully crowdfunded more than £200,000 for medical treatment.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2019 about his post-diagnosis creativity, he said: “I just wanted to be utterly raw, to present rock-bottom, and hopefully map a certain elevation that might come after. If anybody in a similar situation can get comfort from that, you can’t ask for more.”
Gilbert is survived by his wife, Stacey, and their children Dali and Bay.
His brother Aaron, who plays keyboards in the group, announced the news on Twitter. He wrote: “I have no idea how to do this right now, but this afternoon at 2:22; we walked my brother back home to somewhere out there in the ether. Greg died surrounded in the endless love that us and all of you have given him on this journey, and we will never be able to fully express how much it meant to him (and all of us) to have you by our side lifting us up like a winged army.”
Radio DJ Eddy Temple-Morris was among those paying tribute. He said: “Greg Gilbert of Delays had the most transcendently beautiful voice I’ve ever heard and it was a reflection of his very soul. My heart breaks for his lovely family, for every friend, colleague and fan.”
Indie rock band Embrace said: “We’re all really sad to hear about the passing of Greg Gilbert. He was a genuinely gifted songwriter, artist and beautiful human being and our thoughts are with his young family and Aaron and the rest of The Delays at this terrible time. Danny, Steve, Mick, Mike and Richard.”