Spinal Tap drummer Ric Parnell dies aged 70

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Ric Parnell, who played the drummer Mick Shrimpton in This Is Spinal Tap and later toured with the band, has died. He was 70.

The actor Harry Shearer announced the news on Twitter on Sunday, writing: “Ric Parnell, our drummer in This Is Spinal Tap, passed away today. No one ever rocked harder.”

Additional details, including a cause of death, were not immediately available.

Born in London in 1951, the son of the jazz drummer Jack Parnell, the longtime leader of the band on The Muppet Show, Parnell played in bands including Horse, Atomic Rooster, Nova and Stars. He also played with Michael Des Barres and on the 1981 hit Hey Mickey, by Toni Basil.

But Parnell was arguably best known for portraying Shrimpton in This Is Spinal Tap, the 1984 cult rock mockumentary.

His character’s numerous predecessors had suffered various bizarre deaths, including choking on vomit and being killed in a gardening accident. Shrimpton explodes onstage while performing in Japan at the conclusion of the movie.

When Spinal Tap went on a real-world tour, Parnell assumed the persona of Shrimpton’s twin brother, Ric. The act appeared on Saturday Night Live and in 1992 released an album named Break Like the Wind.

Des Barres wrote on Twitter on Monday that “even if he played a parody”, Parnell was “a flawless drummer in any genre”.

“Some musicians are playing a role,” Des Barres said. “Others are rock‘n’roll. Ric Parnell was the latter. The real thing. Lost and found in a rhythm that was both jarring and beautiful. His heart still beats.”

Parnell recently lived in Missoula, Montana, where he hosted a radio show under a title – Spontaneous Combustion – that alluded to his demise in This Is Spinal Tap.

“Nobody hit the drums harder than Ric,” Michael McKean, who portrayed Spinal Tap’s frontman, David St Hubbins, wrote on a GoFundMe page to help pay expenses associated with his death.

“He was the real deal. RIP, Legend.”

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