Kiss and Mick Jagger Keyboardist Phil Ashley Dies at 65
"We are heartbroken at the passing of Philip Ashley," his family confirmed. "A loving father, husband & partner, a wonderful friend and passionately talented musician. ... We hope to honor his life next year with a memorial service - details to come.
Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley said he was "at a loss for words" via Twitter. "My dear friend Phil Ashley has died suddenly. He was a no bullshit, warm and kind soul who I shared so many hours talking with about the value of life, family and music. He played keyboards for many of the greats. The times we won't have leaves me empty."
Joe Satriani added: "Our dear friend Phil Ashley passed away last week," attaching a picture of the two of them with Doug Wimbish and Simon Philips during the recording of The Extremist. "He was a magnificent musician and human being. My deepest condolences to his family. R.I.P Phil, we will all miss you."
Ashley studied classical music as a child before moving into rock and other genres around age 12. "I would just jump into different styles," he told the Kiss Concert History site. "I loved classical, I loved rock, I loved pop; and then, by the time I was 16 or 17, I was playing jazz. So, that gives you kind of an idea, I was all over the place, but I always just loved music."
He left college to tour with Rupert Holmes, best known for his 1979 hit "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," and later found steady work as a session player. Ashley's credits also include Billy Idol's 1986 LP, Whiplash Smile; Aerosmith's late '80s singles "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" and "Rag Doll"; Jagger's 1987 record, Primitive Cool; and projects from Debbie Harry, Tina Turner, Cher, Michael Bolton, Satriani, Yoko Ono and Chicago, among many others.
But Ashley had an especially close relationship with Kiss. He was casual friends with Stanley growing up in Queens, and the two often discussed music. "We were always running into each other, whether it was parties or at the bus stop — because he went to school in the city — and I was always going into the city," Ashley told Kiss Concert History. "So we'd always see each other and stop and talk about music. This was our thing, but we weren't in the same bands because I was doing more of the Allman Brothers type stuff and he was doing a bit more of the hard rock stuff."
They become good friends over the years, and Ashley eventually found himself collaborating with the band. "I had programmed [Eric Carr]'s syn drums for his solo, and then I eventually did some opening music, but they flew me out and were doing rehearsal," he told Kiss Concert History. The keyboardist wound up playing on 1987's Crazy Nights, their 1988 single "Let's Put the X in Sex" and two tracks from 1989's Hot in the Shade.
"[Stanley is] the only person that I knew as a teenager that I ended up working with so much later on, and that was always a different bond," he told the site. "There was a certain friendship there, like when he first got married, I was one of his groomsmen. I did a string arrangement for the wedding that they walked out of the thing for. I think it was 'Forever,' so for me Kiss was really this relationship with Paul."