“The family of Wayne Fontana regret to announce he passed away this afternoon at Steppinghill Hospital, Stockport. His long term partner was by his side,” a spokesperson for Fontana’s family wrote on Twitter Aug. 6.
Fontana was born Glyn Ellis on Oct. 28, 1945, in Manchester, England. In 1963, Fontana scored a record deal along with his backing group, the Mindbenders, and they broke into the fifth spot on the U.K. charts just a year later with the single “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” “The Game of Love” was released in 1965, which gave Fontana and the Mindbenders a No. 1 hit in the U.S., in addition to the No. 2 spot in the U.K.
However, Fontana’s time with The Mindbenders was short-lived, as he reportedly quit the band mid-performance in October 1965 to pursue a solo career. Fontana achieved some success with “Pamela Pamela” in 1966 and “Gina” in 1967, but failed to make an impact on the U.S. charts again. After being one of the first performers at the now-iconic Glastonbury Festival in 1970, Fontana took a break from music. He returned in 1973 and 1976 with two singles, but to minimal acclaim.
In an interview with Daily Express in 2017, Fontana revealed that he struggled with alcoholism after leaving the music industry, but became sober in 1977. “I went into self-retirement, drank too much and didn’t know where I was half the time,” Fontana said.
BBC DJ Tony Blackburn paid tribute to Fontana on Twitter Aug. 7, writing: “So sorry to hear about the passing of great 60’s icon Wayne Fontana yesterday. He was a lovely guy and gave us some great songs.”
So sorry to hear about the passing of great 60's icon Wayne Fontana yesterday.He was a lovely guy and gave us some great https://t.co/BF3e2O110t Sounds Of The Sixties has been recorded already for tomorrow we will do a tribute on Saturday week's show. R.I.P. Wayne
— Tony Blackburn (@tonyblackburn) August 7, 2020
Peter Noone, the lead singer of fellow 1960s Manchester-born band Herman’s Hermits remembered Fontana on Facebook. “Wayne Wayne don’t go away,” Noone wrote. “After 59 years of friendship, laughter, tears jail cells and lost brain bells, we have handed over our lovely lead singer Wayne Fontana to the big band in ROCK AND ROLL HEAVEN.”
Fontana is survived by his partner, daughter and two sons.