Claude Nobs, who founded the prestigious Montreux jazz festival, has died after several weeks in a coma following a skiing accident, according to the festival’s website.
Swiss-born Nobs, 76, launched the summer festival in 1967 while working at the Swiss resort’s tourism office, attracting some of the world’s greatest stars, including Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Prince, to perform there.
He was immortalized as “Funky Claude” in the song Smoke on the Water by rock band Deep Purple, written about a fire that burned down Montreux casino during a Frank Zappa concert in 1971.
Nobs was injured while skiing cross-country on Christmas Eve near his home in the village of Caux overlooking Montreux and Lake Geneva, festival secretary-general Mathieu Jaton told Reuters on Monday.
Despite heart surgery some six years ago, he had stayed on as festival director, a position he shared during the 1990s with American producer Quincy Jones who returns each year from Los Angeles to introduce new talent. (
Nobs often joined musicians on stage, playing harmonica, sometimes accompanied by his dogs.
Sold-out highlights at last year’s festival included concerts by Bob Dylan, American chanteuse Lana Del Rey and British actor and musician Hugh Laurie.
This year’s event is scheduled for July.