Burke Shelley, frontman of 1970s Welsh rock band Budgie, dies aged 71

Burke Shelley, frontman of 70s Welsh rock band Budgie, dies aged 71 a year after refusing surgery for aneurysm

  • Burke Shelley co-founded Budgie in 1967 with Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips
  • The Welsh rock band released 10 studio albums between 1971 and 1982
  • They stopped touring in 1987 before reforming in the 1990s and 200s
  • Shelley refused surgery for a brain aneurysm for fear of being paralyzed










The lead singer of legendary rock band Budgie has died at the age of 71.

Burke Shelley – the ’70s rocker singer and bassist who released 11 albums – has died in hospital.

The group influenced hard rock and metal bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth, all of which covered Budgie songs.

His daughter Ela confirmed his death in Cardiff although the cause is not yet known.

Burke Shelley, pictured, co-founder of 1970s Welsh rockers Budgie, has died aged 71, his family has confirmed

Shelley, pictured at a Budgie gig in Brighton in 1986, has released 11 studio albums with the band

Shelley, pictured at a Budgie gig in Brighton in 1986, has released 11 studio albums with the band

Shelley, pictured, refused surgery after suffering a brain aneurysm as he did not want to risk being paralyzed by the operation

Shelley, pictured, refused surgery after suffering a brain aneurysm as he did not want to risk being paralyzed by the operation

Shelley co-founded Budgie in 1967 with Tony Bourge (guitar/vocals) and Ray Phillips (drums). The group released 10 studio albums between 1971 and 1982.

Budgie stopped touring in 1987 before reforming in the mid-1990s and 2000s. The band’s 11th and final album, “You’re All Living in Cuckooland”, was released in 2006.

Music publication NME says Lars Ulrich offered to sing Budgie’s hit “Breadfan” at one of Metallica’s 40th anniversary shows in San Francisco last month.

Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman of Swedish prog-metal band Opeth, paid tribute to Shelley on social media.

“I almost choked on my coffee this morning when I read that one of my idols, the great Burke Shelley of Budgie had passed away. What a terrible loss! he wrote, adding that the group was of the “underdogs” within the metal scene.

“I think Burke was one of those guys who was quite uncomfortable with the heavy metal tag, but there’s no denying that they helped bring it to the masses,” Åkerfeldt continued. You can read the full message above.

Burke Shelley

Burke Shelley

Shelley and Budgie were very influential within the Heavy Metal scene, influencing bands such as Iron Maiden and Megadeath

Surgery in 2010

Surgery in 2010 ‘ruined his diaphragm’ meaning he couldn’t sing properly

Shelley had battled Stickler syndrome – a genetic condition – in recent years, as well as two aortic aneurysms.

In February 2020 Shelley told Wales Online he had declined surgery to treat the condition due to the risk it could lead to irreparable spinal damage.

“I want to live what I have left of my life and not be paralyzed,” he said. “I have faith in God and I don’t care where I go. So I’ll just go when He decides to take me, and in the meantime I’ll keep doing what I feel like doing. As simple as that.’

Shelley told the outlet that the surgery he underwent in 2010 “spoiled [his] diaphragm”, meaning he was unable to sing properly.

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