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.
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.
[From official fan-site Funkin.com]
I love you so much. My big brother Toby crossed over to the other side last night. All my fondest memories are of him and the band that we created. The most talented musician I have ever had the honor to make music with. There will never be another like you Toby. Your light will shine on eternally. Thank you for making mine and everyone's life so bright. I celebrate your love and life! Rest in Love. Your bald brother Stu x
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