Former Ozzy Osbourne, Gillan and Desperado guitarist, Bernie Tormé, has died aged 66.
A post on Bernie’s official Facebook page reveals that he died on Sunday (17th March), one day before his 67th birthday. Accompanied by a photo of a smiling Bernie throwing the victory sign, the post simply reads: “Bernie Tormey 18.3.1952 - 17.3.2019”
Mik Gaffney, who played drums with Bernie, also confirmed the sad news via his PR company DropDeaf PR, writing: "Something I hoped I would never have to write, the amazing, unmistakable guitar legend Bernie Torme has died. He passed away yesterday, surrounded by his loved ones."
A statement issued by Bernie's family reads: "Bernie Tormé passed away peacefully on the 17th March 2019, one day short of his 67th birthday, surrounded by his family. He had been on life support for the past 4 weeks at a London hospital following post-flu complications. Bernie will be remembered for dedicating his life to his music for 5 decades. He will be sorely missed."
Bernie was rushed to hospital at the start of February with virulent pneumonia in both lungs where he was admitted to intensive care. A short statement at the time read: "Bernie Tormé is extremely ill in intensive care with virulent double pneumonia. We ask for your prayers."
On 15th February it was announced that there sadly there hadn’t been an improvement in his condition and he had been placed on a ventilator.
In a poignant tweet, Bernie's Desperado band mate Dee Snider wrote this afternoon: "Woke up to find out my friend @Bernie_Torme has died. He was a guitar god who played with @OzzyOsbourne & Ian Gillan. We worked together for 3 years, writing over 100 songs for the ill-fated Desperado. I loved that man & today my heart is broken. RIP Bernie. Your guitar weeps."
Ozzy Osbourne later paid tribute, writing: "What a sad day. We’ve lost another great musician. Bernie was a gentle soul with a heart of gold. He will be dearly missed. I send my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. Rest in Peace Bernie."
Ian Gillan said: "Very, very sad and upset to hear about Bernie Tormé, who died yesterday, 17 March 2019. Great respect for the man; as a man and a player. Give ‘em Hell up there Bernie, No Laughing in Heaven? There is now!"
Woke up to find out my friend @Bernie_Torme has died. He was a guitar god who played with @OzzyOsbourne & Ian Gillan. We worked together for 3 years, writing over 100 songs for the ill-fated Desperado. I loved that man & today my heart is broken. RIP Bernie. Your guitar weeps.— Dee Snider (@deesnider) March 18, 2019
What a sad day. We’ve lost another great musician. Bernie was a gentle soul with a heart of gold. He will be dearly missed. I send my sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. Rest in Peace Bernie. pic.twitter.com/Nx1bCiYbkO— Ozzy Osbourne (@OzzyOsbourne) March 18, 2019
Bernie released his latest solo album ‘Shadowland’ last year and accompanied it with a headline UK tour throughout November and December. He also performed at Planet Rockstock in 2017 and his career-spanning set was one of the zeniths of the entire weekend.
Bernie Tormé performing live in 2017
Born Bernard Tormey in Dublin on 18th March 1952, Bernie was a keen music aficionado throughout his early years, and, citing Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore as among his key influences, played in numerous bands in Ireland before moving to London in his early twenties.
Initially playing with a band called Scrapyard, Bernie formed the Bernie Tormé Band in 1976 and toured with the likes of Boomtown Rats and Generation X.
Not quite achieving the success he desired, he joined former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s titular band, Gillan, in 1979 and performed on three of their chart-denting albums – ‘Mr. Universe’, ‘Glory Road’, and ‘Future Shock’. You can see Bernie performing with Gillan in 1981 here:
Ozzy Osbourne credited Bernie with saving his career after he stepped in for Randy Rhoads in the wake of the guitarist’s tragic death in a plane accident in 1982. Ozzy said: “(Bernie) did me a great favour. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be doing it now. I’d have given up.”
Bernie was also a member of Desperado from 1988 with Dee Snider and late Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr and in 2006 formed the band Guy McCoy Tormé (GMT).
In June 2018, Bernie reconnected with Ozzy Osbourne backstage at Sweden Rock Festival for the first time in decades.
Also meeting Zakk Wylde at the Scandinavian festival, Bernie commented at the time: "It was so f***in' nice to catch up with Ozz again after all these years; it was like no time had passed!
“I was so delighted to meet Zakk too, and totally blown away when he said I was one of his heroes and wanted a selfie with me! Man, he's one of my big heroes! I guess I must have made an impression on him at that Madison Square Garden Ozzy gig way back in the '80s… Well, he was only 16!
“Ozz and I had a right old chinwag. 'Course I did try to blag him into singing on a track on my new PledgeMusic album 'Shadowland'!"
Such a nice thing for me to see Ozzy at Sweden Rock Festival. 36 years since that awful time just after Randy passed away.— Bernie Tormé (@Bernie_Torme) June 17, 2018
We had a lovely chat & a laugh, just like meeting up with an old mate, nothing changed
Meant such a lot to me. What a nice guy.https://t.co/Q1Wz6C6htw pic.twitter.com/JvWvnJ6Tq6
Delighted to meet another @OzzyOsbourne guitarist @ZakkWyldeBLS last week @swedenrockfest. A hero of mine! Even more delighted to be told I was hero of his!! FFS!! An absolute gent! Thank you very much Zakk! 🎸🎸🇮🇪🤠🎸🎸 pic.twitter.com/psIuKaS9rr— Bernie Tormé (@Bernie_Torme) June 16, 2018
While Bernie was in hospital last month, his family released a statement condemning PledgeMusic for owing Bernie £16,000.
They wrote: “PledgeMusic owe Bernie Torme almost £16000 which was due last December on completion of his recent ‘Shadowland’ PledgeMusic campaign.
“Bernie has paid for all recordings, merchandise, CDs and all postage costs to send Pledge items out to his fans out of his own pocket. He has as yet been unable to pay his musicians; drummer Mik Gaffney and bass player Simon Morton for their work on the album.
“This has been a very stressful situation for Bernie, exacerbated by the lack of communication coming from Pledge and, despite their promises, no sign of coming through with any solution to clear up the mess they have created.”
In response, Bernie’s fans set up a Just Giving page to “help with the financial gaps” and raised over £4500 for him.
RIP Bernie Tormé.