1 June 1933
London, England, United Kingdom
22 August 2016 (aged 83)
Gillian Mary "Gilli" Smyth (1 June 1933 – 22 August 2016) was an English musician who performed with the bands Gong, Mother Gong, and Planet Gong and released several solo albums and albums in collaboration with other members of Gong. In Gong, she often performed under the name Shakti Yoni, contributing poems and "space whispers".
Smyth had three degrees from King's College London, (the liner notes for Voiceprint's 'Mother Gong' CD suggests 'London University') where she gained notoriety as the outspoken sub-editor of "Kings News", a college magazine. After a brief spell teaching at the Sorbonne (Paris) (where she became bilingual), she began doing performance poetry with well-known English jazz-rock group Soft Machine, founded by her partner and long-time collaborator, Daevid Allen, in 1968.
She co-founded Gong with Allen, an outfit that included musicians such as Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe. All of the songs on the albums Magick Brother and Continental Circus are listed as written or co-written by her. In her spoken-word poetry, especially within Gong's "Radio Gnome Invisible" Trilogy, she portrays a prostitute, a cat, a mother, a witch, and an old woman, and she has been known for wearing such costumes on stage. This became part of the cult mythology, which was written into sixteen albums that were produced. Gong developed into a family of bands, including Gongmaison and Mother Gong. Mother, her 1978 solo album, led to Smyth founding Mother Gong having left the original Gong band in 1975 to have children.
Mother Gong toured internationally in 1979-1981 and 1989–1991, either headlining or supporting such artists as Bob Dylan and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Smyth appeared as a solo performer and lecturer at the Starwood Festival in 1992 and 1993. She has also done voice-overs for commercials, taped children's books and other books and poetry, given workshops on voice projection and voice as a confidence raiser, and has performed for many women's groups.
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