-- rivetingly charismatic, menacingly serpentine, and possessed of an almost shamanic intensity, he embraced and articulated the anthemic fervor of rock music with a power and eloquence unparalleled by any of his contemporaries.
was born September 11, 1971, in the Wigan suburb of Billinge, attending Upholland Comprehensive School alongside future
; after losing his father at age 11, he fell under the influence of his stepfather, a member of the ancient secular order of the Rosicrucians, who regularly performed experiments in mind expansion and the healing arts. While a student at Winstanley College in 1989,
; signing to Virgin's Hut imprint to issue their 1992 debut single, "All in the Mind,"
earned widespread praise for their majestic, oceanic guitar pop, with the eminently quotable
" from the U.K. press.
Despite their critical acclaim, Verve
often seemed at the mercy of forces outside their control -- while touring with the Lollapalooza festival in support of their 1993 debut LP, A Storm in Heaven
was hospitalized after suffering from severe dehydration, and within months the band also entered into a protracted legal battle with the American jazz label Verve
, which resulted in an official name change to "The Verve
." Recorded under the influence of a massive intake of ecstasy, 1995's brilliant A Northern Soul
effectively split the band apart, although Ashcroft
re-formed the lineup a few weeks later. The re-formed Verve
achieved international success with 1997's celebrated Urban Hymns
, scoring a series of hits including "Bittersweet Symphony," "The Drugs Don't Work," and "Lucky Man"; however, legal hassles awarded 100 percent of "Bittersweet Symphony"'s publishing rights to ABKCO Music -- the song was built on a Rolling Stones
sample -- and as friction between Ashcroft
resurfaced, the guitarist quit the group, and following a final tour, the Verve
again disbanded, this time for good. Ashcroft
's solo debut, Alone with Everybody
, followed in mid-2000. Later that fall, Ashcroft
celebrated his solo success with a ten-date sold-out American tour. Two days prior to kickoff in Chicago, the entire tour was postponed due to Ashcroft
's illness, and speculations were quickly linked to his previous drug-using behavior with the Verve
. Those rumors were also wiped out quickly, and the U.S. dates were rescheduled for January 2001. The following year, Ashcroft
returned with his soul-searching, spiritual second album, Human Conditions
. Over the next few years, Ashcroft
returned to living a quiet life with his family. He also inked a recording contract with Parlophone after his longtime label home, Hut, went bankrupt in mid-2004. Ashcroft
's long-awaited third album, Keys to the World
, was released in March 2006.
Shortly after the release of Keys to the World
, rumors started circulating that the Verve
were set to reunite. The band confirmed these rumors in 2007, playing a brief tour at the end of the year and then setting to work on a new album. Punningly entitled Forth, the record appeared in the summer of 2008 and was a reasonable success, yet the bandmembers didn't weather their reunion well, splitting once more in the summer of 2009. Ashcroft
then formed the solo project RPA & the United Nations of Sound, whose debut appeared in the summer of 2010 in every territory but the U.S., where it was released in early 2011.