By Richard Fleury
The rock music world is mourning the loss of guitar legend Bernie Tormé, who has died at the age of 66.
Former Ozzy Osbourne and Gillan guitarist Bernie lived near Doddington, near Faversham, for many years.
He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on 17th March at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital after four weeks of treatment for double pneumonia.
Tributes have flooded in from fellow musicians including Ozzy Osbourne, who said: “What a sad day. Bernie was a gentle soul with a heart of gold. He will be dearly missed. I send my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. Rest in peace, Bernie.”
Ozzy’s wife and manager Sharon Osbourne also expressed her sadness, saying: “I cannot believe that Bernie Tormé has passed. Bernie helped out Ozzy and I at a time of great need and we will never ever forget that. Love and condolences to his family.”
Bernie famously stepped in following Ozzy’s guitarist Randy Rhoads’ tragic death in a plane accident in 1982, joining the Diary of a Madman Tour and performing with Osbourne at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be doing it now. I’d have given up,” said the grateful Ozzy.
Born Bernard Tormey in Dublin in 1952, Bernie was inspired by virtuoso rock guitarists Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore. A talented young musician, he performed in several Irish bands before moving to London in 1974 in his early twenties. He formed the Bernie Tormé Band in 1976 and toured with the Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats and Billy Idol’s Generation X. In 1979, he joined the band Gillan, formed by Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan, who said: “Very, very sad and upset to hear about Bernie Tormé. Great respect for the man; as a man and a player.”
Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, who worked with Bernie on a project called Desperado, called him ‘a guitar god’. He said: “I loved that man and today my heart is broken.”
Dedicating 50 years of his life to music, Bernie never stopped playing and writing. In 2006, he formed the band Guy McCoy Tormé (GMT) releasing three albums, followed by four solo albums including his final record, Shadowland, last year.
Bernie supported and encouraged Kent musicians, with numerous local bands practicing and recording at his studio and rehearsal space. His family thanked fans for their kind tributes and support and have set up a fundraising site for Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals in Bernie’s memory. To make a donation visit: http://bernard-tormey.muchloved.com.