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Saturday, August 15, 2009


Well-known pianist and organist dies quietly and suddenly at home in bed.

Well-known pianist and organist Bernie Odgers, a stalwart of the Durban contemporary music scene for many years, passed away suddenly and quietly in his bed earlier this evening (August 15).

“He had been away on leave down the South Coast visiting his brother and had come back home feeling quite refreshed but said that he was feeling a bit cold so went to bed,” says pianist, arranger and composer Tim Pullen who had been his friend for over 30 years. ”His partner Errol Higgs was in the kitchen preparing supper and when he went through to check on Bernie, he found that he had passed away.

“Bernie had emphysema and his health had been poorly for some time. He gave up smoking too late and this affected his general health. I spoke to him this morning and he was quite cheerful. He had his 70th birthday a week ago and while it was a wonderful way to go, it is a dreadful shock to everyone.

“He was a legend. When the combo of organ and drums were all the rage, he was probably the most popular act in Durban. He could get the whole room on the floor – he had that ability and charisma.”

Bernie Odgers bought the popular Musikland in Glenwood Village nearly 25 ago, later branching out to specialise in pianos. He bought a shop opposite Musikland and called it Pianoland. He was always generous with his offers to lend pianos free of hire charge, understanding the financial strictures that affected most people in the arts.

“Bernie was a free giving spirit,” Tim Pullen adds. “I think he was the fairest businessman I have ever come across. The mentoring he gave me during my young days has stood me in great stead musically and business-wise. I try to run my business along his principles.”