A founding member of the band Caravan, Richard Coughlan spent over 30 years behind the drum kit for the renowned Canterbury-based progressive rock outfit, making him one of art rock's longest tenured musicians. Born in Herne Bay, Kent, Coughlan took up the mouth organ at age ten and then the bugle, which he played in a school band. It was the drums that captured his imagination, however, and by the time he'd entered his teens he was dedicated to the art of percussion. From his school band, he moved on to playing in a couple of dance bands. By sheer luck, the result of having a friend who was a co-worker of Hugh Hopper -- then the bassist in a band called the Wilde Flowers -- at the latter's day job, he worked his way into the circle surrounding that band, and into the acquaintanceship of Robert Wyatt, not too long before Wyatt abandoned the drums in favor of fronting the band as singer; when the dust settled from the shifting personnel, Coughlan was the Wilde Flowers' new drummer. After Wyatt's exit to join Soft Machine, Coughlan remained with the Wilde Flowers as they evolved into Caravan. Luckily, he took naturally to the group's shift into progressive rock and, in fact, enjoyed it -- their particular brand of art rock was relatively lean and carefully voiced, giving great prominence to Coughlan's drumming at its most sophisticated and subtle, and giving him a chance to contribute to the group's collective compositions as well. Coughlan remained with them into the 21st century, taking time away from his day job as a tavern keeper to play on Caravan's sporadic new album efforts, and on the relative handful of gigs that the band -- not a full-time enterprise since the late '70s -- played in England and Continental Europe. Health issues led him to stop playing live with the band in 2005, although he subsequently continued on as a percussionist, with Mark Walker taking over drum duties. Coughlan died on December 1, 2013; he was 66 years old. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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richard coughlan
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