Jamiroquai buzz has grown to a fever pitch over the last year-and-change. First came the release of Automaton in March, 2017, the band’s first new album after years out of the spotlight. They then set out on a world tour to support the new release–with a notable absence of any U.S. performance. Now, Jamiroquai’s American performance drought is about to end: The band will play their first stateside show in 13 years this weekend at Coachella, followed by a handful of confirmed performances in San Francisco and New York City. They’ve also been hinted at as headliners for this year’s Suwannee Hulaween.

Return Of The Space Cowboy: Why Jamiroquai Playing The U.S. Has Everybody On Cloud 9

But just as this new chapter in the story of Jamiroquai was beginning, an earlier chapter ended sadly. One year ago today, the band’s founding member/ex-keyboardist Toby Smith (pictured above, right) passed away at the age of 46 after secretly battling cancer for multiple years. As we prepare, at long last, to begin the first batch of Jamiroquai U.S. performances in more than a decade, we remember the late keyboardist who helped create the funk phenomenon…

Toby Smith, Founding Member/ex-Keyboardist of Jamiroquai, Dead at 46

By: B. Getz

[Originally published April 12th, 2017]

Toby Smith, founding member/former keyboardist of Jamiroquai, has died at the age of 46. Smith, along with singer Jason Kay and bassist Stuart Zender, formed the band in 1991 and released their first single, “When You Gonna Learn?” in 1992. The singer is survived by his wife and children.

He retired from the band and touring in 2002 after a decade behind the Fender Rhodes and walls of analog synths. Smith spent his remaining years in semi-seclusion; a private person to begin with, he was a doting father, husband, and recording engineer in the studio he helped build. No official cause of death has been released as of press time. [Note: The cause of death was later revealed to be a years-long battle with cancer.]

The first five Jamiroquai albums featured prominent songwriting and virtuoso musicianship from Smith. Emergency on Planet Earth (1992), The Return of the Space Cowboy (1994) and Travelling Without Moving (1997) saw Zender and Smith unite for freakishly inventive, mouth-watering jams. After Zender left the band in 1998, Smith and Kay steered the ship on records Synkronized (1999) and A Funk Odyssey (2001). Smith then abruptly departed the band on the eve of the Funk Odyssey World Tour, just before the band returned to the US for a show at Hammerstein Ballroom on September 10, 2001.

Jamiroquai – “Too Young To Die”

[From official fan-site Funkin.com]

We reached out to a longtime Smith/Jamiroquai fanatic, keyboardist Todd Stoops of Electric Beethoven for some words on a fallen hero: Oh man! What a loss – Toby was a huge influence on my playing – his vibe on those monster tracks like Cosmic Girl and Canned Heat and of course the massive hooks behind Virtual Insanity… madness! Not many people know he was a co-writer with Jay Kay for their biggest hits – gone way too soon! RIP Toby

A note from the author B.Getz: As a pianist, fan, journalist, and somebody who looked up to Toby Smith for a variety of reasons, I am personally devastated by this loss. His effortless way of making tall, lanky, curly-haired dudes be cool went a long way with me in my youth. His tasty, classy playing on the seminal records remains timeless (“Just Another Story” is STILL unreal, 22 years later), and his contributions to the songs and vibe that make early Jamiroquai remain relevant decades later, will definitely not be overlooked nor forgotten. 

Please enjoy some of my favorite videos of Toby Smith’s time in Jamiroquai.

Club Citta, Kawasaki, Japan, 10/10/1993

[Courtesy of Mathijis de Graaf]

Glasgow, Scotland, 4/30/1997

[Courtesy of funkandrockcity]

Montreux Jazz, Montreux, Switzerland, 7/12/1995

[Courtesy of Zsolt Horváth]

Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan, 11/18/1999

[Courtesy of SerpicoBerserk]

Fila Forum, Milan, Italy, 10/12/2001

[Courtesy of The Tribe With The Vibe]

RIP Toby Smith- 1970-2017