Percussionist to the stars who has performed with a who’s who of The British Invasion, including The Who, with whom he started his prolific career in the ’60s. He followed this by collaborating with Elton John on most of his 1970s albums, an artistic collaboration that continued well into the ’90s.
Cooper befriended The Rolling Stones when he performed on their 1974 release, It’s Only Rock and Roll, and went on to contribute his energetic percussive talents to Bill Wyman’s 1981 solo effort and 1997’s Struttin’ Our Stuff, and Mick Jagger’s 1985 release, She’s the Boss.
So enamoured of Ray was Elton that in the 1970s, and later on in the ’90s, Elton went on a “solo” tour that included Ray. This included Elton’s groundbreaking Russia concerts in 1979. Ray also appeared in concert with Elton and Billy Joel on their Face To Face tour in 1994 and 1995. In 2002, he appeared in and produced the Concert for George.
Ray branched out into film in the ’70s when he performed on the soundtracks of Tommy and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He became even more involved in the ’80s and ’90s thanks to a creative partnership with Terry Gilliam, acting as Music Producer for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (in which he also played a functionary) and A Private Function. He also composed music for Brazil (in which he played a technician), Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, and Time Bandits, and appeared as the preacher in the 1980 musical comedy, Popeye.
The list of artists and groups he has worked with would cover his drum set in small print, but includes Joan Armatrading, Liona Boyd, Eric Clapton, Ian Dury, Yvonne Elliman, Herbie Flowers, Art Garfunkel, Nicky Hopkins , INXS, Davy Johnstone, Linda Lewis, Paul McCartney & Wings, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Pink Floyd, Chris Rea, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr , Ali Thompson, Jeff Wayne, and The Wombles.
Ray is still active in the recording studio, and appeared on Katie Melua’s 2007 release, Pictures. In 2012 he and Elton John performed together without a band for the first time since 1995 in a small series of shows.
Here he is on percussion while Elton John sings “Take Me to the Pilot”…