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

Burke Shelley, frontman of 1970s Welsh rock band Budgie, dies aged 71 after refusing surgery for aneurysm

  • Burke Shelley co-founded Budgie in 1967 with Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips
  • The Welsh rock group released 10 studio albums between 1971 and 1982
  • They stopped touring in 1987 before reforming in the 90s and 200s
  • Shelley refused surgery for a brain aneurysm for fear he could be crippled



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

Burke Shelley – the lead singer and bassist for the 1970s rockers who released 11 albums – died in hospital.

The group influenced hard rock and metal acts such as Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth, all of whom have 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

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

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

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

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

Shelley, pictured, refused surgery after sustaining a brain aneurysm because he didn't want to risk being paralyzed by the surgery

Shelley, pictured, refused surgery after sustaining a brain aneurysm because he didn't want to risk being paralyzed by the surgery

Shelley, pictured, refused surgery after sustaining a brain aneurysm because he didn’t want to risk being paralyzed by the surgery

Shelley 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 eleventh and final full-length record, “You’re All Living in Cuckooland,” was released in 2006.

Music publication the NME said Lars had offered Ulrich 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, has paid tribute to Shelley on social media.

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

“I think Burke was one of those guys who was kind of uncomfortable with the heavy metal tag, but there’s no denying that they played an important role in bringing it to the masses,” Åkerfeldt continued. You can read the full message above.

Burke Shelley

Burke Shelley

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 'ruined his diaphragm', meaning he could no longer sing well

Surgery in 2010 'ruined his diaphragm', meaning he could no longer sing well

Surgery in 2010 ‘ruined his diaphragm’, meaning he could no longer sing well

Shelley had battled Stickler syndrome – a genetic disorder – for the past several years and suffered from two aortic aneurysms.

In February 2020, Shelley told Wales Online that he had rejected surgery to treat the condition because of the risk that it could lead to irreversible damage to the spine.

“I want to live the life I still have and not be crippled,” he said. “I have faith in God and don’t worry about where I’m going. So I’ll just go if He decides to take me and in the meantime I’ll keep doing what I want to do. Simple as that.’

Shelley explained to the outlet that the surgery he had in 2010 was ‘messed up’ [his] diaphragm,” meaning he couldn’t sing well.

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