68 years ago today, on August 25th, 1952, the skillful keyboardist Geoff Downes was born in Stockport, UK. Later on, in order to pursue a career in music, he moved to London. He came from a musician family, his father was a church organist and his mother was a pianist. It was no surprise that Downes would go on to play the keyboards himself. He studied at a music college in Leeds and played in some local bands before he came to London, where he would play as a session musician and compose advertising jingles.
In an audition for pop singer Tina Charles’s band in 1976, he met singer, Trevor Horn. They became good friends and recorded together before they formed The Buggles to have a hit single called “Video Killed the Radio Star”, which proved to be successful. This success led them to join the prog-rock legends Yes for their album Drama and the tour that followed. Bafflingly, Downes was the first member of the band to have a completed music degree. After Yes disintegrated in 1981, he went on to form the rock supergroup, Asia, along with Steve Howe from Yes, Carl Palmer from ELP, and John Wetton from King Crimson. Asia was an immediate success, which helped consolidate Downes’s career.
Though he never wanted to be a showman and wasn’t too keen on sumptuous performances like his counterparts at the time; he once entered the Guinness Book Of Records for performing with the most keyboards (which was 28) on stage for one performance. His ability to perform with multiple keyboards and synths helped him achieve the New Wave sound.
In an interview, conducted in 2006, Downes said that the three keyboardists that had inspired him were Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and especially David Sinclair. But with his contributions to many genres of music, he is an inspiration for young keyboardists today as well.
We wish him a happy birthday and hope that he will continue to produce amazing music for all kinds of listeners.