Ray Columbus terminally ill

Last updated 12:25 30/06/2013
ray columbus

RAY OF LIGHT: Ray Columbus had embarked on a solo career by 1969.

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He was the first Kiwi to record an overseas No 1, gave the world a signature dance move, and mentored a host of successful entertainers.

But now pioneering rocker Ray Columbus, best-known for the 60s chart hit She's a Mod, is terminally ill. Columbus, 71, has suffered poor health since a heart attack in 2004.

A popular figure in the Kiwi music industry, Columbus received a string of major awards in his career, and played support gigs to the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey and the Hollies before launching a successful management and TV career.

He is suffering from an immune deficiency problem thought to have been brought on by the heavy medication he has had to take in recent years. He is being cared for at his home north of Auckland, where he lives with wife Linda.

"He was ahead of everyone else with what he was doing," said his long-time friend, the singer Suzanne Lynch (nee Donaldson). "I think Ray and the Invaders [his band] raised the bar for New Zealand music."

Ray Columbus and the Invaders played together for only two years, from 1964 to 1966, but were the first New Zealand band to record an international No 1 hit when their cover of British band Terry Beale and the Senators' She's a Mod topped the Australian charts. When the band split, Columbus spent years living in the US, presented television shows and continued to play solo.

Among those he discovered or managed were Tina Cross, the Rumour, Zed and Shane, and he began managing Lynch's group, The Chicks, when she was just 14.

"A lot of people did really well in this business, and it was singularly due to Ray's advice," said Lynch. "He took care of a lot of people's careers and a lot of well-known artists have a lot to thank him for.

"He has been my manager and mentor right through my career; he's been like my big brother," she said.

"What he taught me was professionalism . . . he's always been a shining example of what a professional musician should be."

While Columbus was famously clean-living, he smoked for 30 years and blamed the habit when he had a heart attack in 2004 and a stroke in 2008, which caused him to take extensive medication. He attributed a rejuvenation in health to an alternative health therapy called EECP, but last year he suffered another stroke.

His impact on the Kiwi music industry would be permanent, said Lynch - not least for his trademark move from She's a Mod: "Even now, if I break out into the Mod Nod on stage, everyone laughs and does it too."

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- Sunday Star Times

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