Michael Fonfara, Keyboardist, Dies At Age 74

Michael Fonfara, internationally renowned Canadian keyboardist, passed away on January 8th, after a two year battle with cancer. The musician’s publicist confirmed the news to media sources yesterday. He was 74. 

Born in Stevensville, Ontario in 1946, the former Lou Reed keyboardist/bandleader appeared on nine of Reed’s albums between 1974 and 2005, including his highest-charting U.S. album (#10) “Sally Can’t Dance” on RCA, as well as “Rock And Roll Heart”, “Street Hassle”, “The Bells”, which Fonfara executive produced,  and “Growing Up In Public” that was co-written and co-produced by Fonfara for Clive DavisArista Records in 1980.

A Talent Highly Sought After

Michael Fonfara is mostly known for his long term work with Reed, but he has been very busy building a career, working with many other famous talents. Fonfara recorded with Foreigner, notably on their hit song “Urgent” from 1981’s “4”.

The Everly Brothers, Rhinoceros, Electric Flag, and more were also bands Michael worked with. In 1999 Fonfara contributed to 2B3 – The Toronto Sessions—a collection of songs played on the Hammond B3 organ. Fonfara was joined by Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward, Bill Payne, and many others for the project.

Michael Fonfara was also a current member, and a member since 30 years plus, for the band Downchild.  The band is best known as the inspiration for Hollywood stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s hit film “The Blues Brothers”, until his untimely death. The band paid a tribute to the late musician on their website where they wrote he was “an incredible musician, a gentle soul.” The band added: “We were honoured to share the stage with him every time we performed. He will be deeply missed.”

A Legacy That Will Live On!

Michael Fonfara’s final recording was Downchild “Live At The Toronto Jazz Festival”, recorded at their 50th-anniversary party in 2019, where he performed live alongside special guests Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer, David Wilcox, and other legendary musicians. The new album was just released worldwide on October 16, 2020, as the final chapter of his illustrious career. He’s surely gone too soon.

Michael Fonfara is survived by his wife, 3 children, 4 grand-children and many fans, all over the world. Rest in peace, your legacy will live on.

By: Aatira Kakroo