Barrie Corbett: Tributes to Yorkshire music legend who wrote songs for The Smurfs and appeared with The Beatles

Tributes have been paid to a Yorkshire musician who had an incredible career spanning between The Beatles and The Smurfs

Over the course of more than six decades, Barrie Corbett was a major figure in not only Yorkshire’s music scene but also internationally.

Mr Corbett, who was known as Barry, who died suddenly but peacefully at home at the age of 81 on January 21, toured the world in the 1970s as part of a successful pop duo with his wife called Barry & Eileen. But it was his work with The Smurfs that will be most well-known, even if his band did support The Beatles when they played in Harrogate in the 1960s.

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Having won a reputation locally, Barry found himself and his band the Mustangs – alongside John Whiteley, John Bolton and Johnny Lockhead – as lead support band on the only occasion the world’s biggest band came to Harrogate.

Barry Corbett.Barry Corbett.
Barry Corbett.

On Friday, March 8, 1963, Derek Arnold presented a 'Dancing for Teens and Twenties' event at the Royal Hall; a one off show the promoter had negotiated the previous December solely on the strength of hearing the Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You.

That night saw Barry Corbett and the Mustangs as one of the support acts, although they were joined by other musical acts from the Harrogate area, including the Chinchillas, and Ricky Fenton and the Apaches (Bob Mason, John 'Dusty' Blake, Dennis Malvern and Dave Reed).

Fifty years later, Barry would go on to reform the Mustangs for a reunion concert in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the day the Harrogate band played with the Fab Four.

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The rest of the 1960s saw Barry’s musical career rise rapidly, his considerable performing and songwriting skills much in demand at a national level whether with bands or solo. His stock was also rising on the continent, especially thanks to the successful duo he and his wife Eileen formed.

A vintage poster of The Beatles visit to the Royal Hall in Harrogate in March 1963 with Barry Corbett and the Mustangs on the bill.A vintage poster of The Beatles visit to the Royal Hall in Harrogate in March 1963 with Barry Corbett and the Mustangs on the bill.
A vintage poster of The Beatles visit to the Royal Hall in Harrogate in March 1963 with Barry Corbett and the Mustangs on the bill.

In an impressive list of singles and albums released by Barry & Eileen, their best known song is, perhaps, "If You Go", a cover of the Alain Barriere French-language song, "Tu t'en vas" which became a European hit in 1975.

Soon even bigger success was to come Barry Corbett’s way.

After The Smurfs had a global smash in November 1977, with The Smurf Song which reached the number one position in 16 countries, the Dutch musician behind it, Pierre Kartner, better known as Father Abraham, split from the cartoon series to produce his own Smurfs hits.

When it came to writing the songs, mostly produced by music promoter Frans Erkelens, he turned to Barry who duly obliged with a string of hits – often in different languages. Father Abraham died late last year at the age of 87.

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Barry & Eileen - Flashback to the glory days of Barry Corbett and Eileen Corbett's successful musical duo of the 1970s.Barry & Eileen - Flashback to the glory days of Barry Corbett and Eileen Corbett's successful musical duo of the 1970s.
Barry & Eileen - Flashback to the glory days of Barry Corbett and Eileen Corbett's successful musical duo of the 1970s.

A devoted husband to Eileen, loving father to Kevin and Simon, precious Baba to Maia and Dan and much loved father-in-law to Liz, Barry will be greatly missed by all his family and many friends.

A service is to be held for Barry at Stonefall Crematorium on Wetherby Road in Harrogate on Friday, February 17 at 1.40pm.

Family flowers only, donations to be split between the British Heart Foundation and HARD Heart Failure Specialist Nurses’ Charitable Fund. Funeral enquiries to Neil and Sonia Milsted.

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