Elton John, Billy Joel Mourn The Loss Of Bassist Bob Birch

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Bob Birch on tour with Elton John in 2011. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

Bob Birch on tour with Elton John in 2011. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

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Earlier this week, Bob Birch, Elton John‘s bassist of 20 years, passed away at the age of 56 near his Los Angeles home. Now John and frequent tourmate/fellow piano man Billy Joel have paid respects to Birch on their respective websites.

John’s statement reads as follows: “I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch. My heart goes out to Bob’s wife Michele, his son Jonathan and his family. To me Bob was family. He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1400 concerts together. He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note. I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace.”

Billy Joel, who performed with John on their Face to Face Tours for much of the ’90s and ’00s, released his own statement about Birch: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch. He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much.”

Birch, also a saxophonist and backing vocalist, had performed at 1,441 Elton John concerts and on over 50 studio songs since he joined the band in 1992, John’s site confirms. He had just finished a European summer tour with Elton and was set to hit the road with him again next month.

Throughout his career, Birch had also played with a number of other superstar acts, including Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Cher and Sting.

- Jillian Mapes, CBS Local

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