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World Party Frontman Karl Wallinger Dies at 66

Karl Wallinger, the Welsh-born frontman of World Party and early member of the Waterboys, died Sunday, according to a statement from his publicist. No cause of death was announced, although he suffered a brain aneurysm in 2001 that paused his career for several years; he was 66.

Wallinger formed World Party in 1986 shortly after his departure from the Waterboys and recorded the group’s debut album, “Private Revolution,” largely by himself at home. Released in 1987, the album was a surprise hit, spawning the hit single “Ship of Fools,” and the group toured and released four more albums through 2000 and scored hits with “Put The Message In the Box” and “Is It Like Today?” Following Wallinger’s illness, the group was back in action by 2006 and toured through 2015; Wallinger said in a 2022 interview that World Party had reformed and was gearing up for touring.

Born in Wales in 1957, Wallinger began his career as a keyboardist with several bands and briefly was musical director for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in London. He joined the Waterboys in 1983 and served as a multi-instrumentalist on the band’s first three albums, including 1985’s “This Is the Sea,” which featured the slow-burning hit single “Whole of the Moon.”

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Waterboys leader Mike Scott paid tribute to Wallinger on Monday, calling him “one of the finest musicians I’ve ever known.”

Wallinger left the band after the tour in support of that album to form World Party, and during that period contributed to labelmate Sinead O’Connor’s debut album “The Lion and the Cobra”; O’Connor sang backing vocals on the first two World Party albums. While the group’s later albums did enjoy the same chart success as the debut, they sold well and the group was popular through the end of the 1990s. He was the musical director for the Gen-X-defining 1994 film “Reality Bites,” which started Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder, and contributed to the “Clueless” soundtrack the following year; he also contributed to the Peter Gabriel-helmed “Big Blue Ball” album, which was recorded in the 1990s but not released until 2008.

While World Party toured extensively following Wallinger’s recovery, it did not release any new albums in those years. However, he promised new material in his 2022 interview.

He is survived by his wife Suzie Zamit, two children and and two grandchildren.

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