Obituary: Kevin Finn, musician, singer and theme park designer

Kevin Finn (right), singer enjoyed global success in The New Seekers. Picture: Contributed
Kevin Finn (right), singer enjoyed global success in The New Seekers. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 30 March, 1944, in Oxford. Died: 22 February, 2016, in Dundee, aged 71.

For as long as he could remember Kevin Finn wanted to be on the stage. Little could he have dreamed, as he mimed his childhood party piece – a Rosemary Clooney number – that he would end up on the world stage as part of one of the most iconic 70s bands.

Along with Scots singer Eve Graham, who became his wife, he helped to make up The New Seekers whose soundtrack to a Coca-Cola advert had earlier become a global phenomenon.

By that time he had already enjoyed a successful career with a series of bands, including Wishful Thinking and Marty Paul and Danny, and after he and Eve – the lead vocal on I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing – left to strike out on their own, he went on to carve an eclectic future that spanned touring with Max Boyce, designing and writing music for theme parks and commercials, coming a credible third in the Eurovision song contest and finally settling in rural Perthshire.

It was a long way from the young lad who had once flirted with the idea of becoming a priest.

Born in Oxford, the son of coach trimmer Terrance Finn and his wife Bridie, a telephonist, he was taught by nuns during his primary school years and then, growing up in Southampton, attended St Mary’s College, a school run on the principles of the De La Mennais Brothers of Christian Instruction. Although he said that education had influenced his thoughts about a religious life, his party piece was This Ole House and once he discovered Elvis and Bill Haley he said “my life changed forever!”

Saturday mornings spent at a teenage show at the Gaumont Theatre in Southampton, which included a DJ, dancing and a live band, fuelled his desire to break into showbusiness and he eventually began playing with a local band, The Whirlwinds. “Part of the audition was not whether I was a good singer,” he later wrote, “but more important was that I knew the words to the songs!”

He then successfully answered an advert, in the Southampton Evening Echo, placed by a local showbusiness entrepreneur who was looking for a singer to manage. The manager promptly changed his name to Kevin Scott and helped him to record a couple of songs with The Whirlwinds. He then became Kevin Scott & The Kinsmen and played society gigs, once performing for The Queen Mother.

His next band was Time, for which he sang lead vocals and with whom he cut two singles. When he heard that Camberley-based Wishful Thinking was looking for a new lead singer, he joined the group and his professional singing career really began. They toured and enjoyed a measure of success, particularly in Denmark, chalking up a number of hits. Their album Hiroshima, released in 1971, initially failed to make an impact and the band decided to concentrate on other things. Finn joined the Walt Disney Company and was a session singer on records and TV shows featuring artists such as Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton John plus live shows with groups including The Kinks. He was also in the 1973 film That’ll Be The Day, featuring David Essex and Ringo Starr, when he appeared with Wishful Thinking.

By this time The New Seekers, whose line-up included Auchterarder-born Eve Graham, had enjoyed huge success with I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing and Beg Steal Or Borrow, a Eurovision runner-up in 1972. The group had appeared on shows with Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams and Sonny and Cher, toured with Liza Minelli, Neil Diamond and Dionne Warwick, and performed for British royalty and the US president. But the pressure of work resulted in a split in 1974.

Meanwhile, Finn joined up with two former members of the group, Marty Kristian and Paul Layton. Now known as Danny, as a result of often being referred to as Danny Boy, due to his Irish extraction, he became one third of Marty Paul and Danny. They wrote and recorded songs as well as commercials that became part of a British Airways campaign.

However, Marty and Paul still owned the New Seekers name and asked Eve to rejoin the group. Finn too was part of the new line-up. He sang lead vocal on the group’s Do You Wanna Make Love and on their last Top 30 hit, Anthem (One Day In Every Week).

He and Eve left the group at the end of 1978 and married the following year. Working together, they performed in the Far East, Middle East and Canada and did a gig at the London Palladium. Now Finn was also becoming involved with theme parks and, collaborating with one of his Wishful Thinking bandmates, he wrote and recorded the theme music and special sound effects for a new ride at a Belgian park.

In 1980, he was approached by Stuart Slater and Stephanie De Sykes to join a group, Prima Donna, performing their song in A Song for Europe, a competition to decide which song would represent the UK at Eurovision. The number, Love Enough For Two, won and they subsequently came third in the Eurovision song contest.

The following year he again sang in A Song for Europe but more and more of his time was being spent on theme parks and while touring with Eve he decided to quit life on the road and became a theme park designer. After that he worked on rides, shows, radio and television commercials for parks and attractions throughout Europe and latterly toured New Zealand with Eve and Paper Lace.

In 2001 he was diagnosed with polycythemia, a blood condition caused by a faulty gene, and made plans to retire to Scotland. The couple, who lived in Norfolk, moved in 2004, settling in Eve’s native Perthshire.

Since his death, in hospital in Dundee, tributes have flooded in – from theme park designers, fans and fellow musicians – praising his creative vision, his humour and magnetic personality and the positivity he radiated.

He is survived by his wife.