‘This is Spinal Tap’ actor, musician Ric Parnell dies at age 70

The entertainment industry was saddened to learn on Sunday that Ric Parnell, who gained fame for his portrayal of drummer Mick Shrimpton in rock “mockumentary” This is Spinal Tap, died at the age of 70, as Variety reports.

Parnell’s death was made public in a tweet from actor Harry Shearer, who co-starred in the 1984 hit film that chronicled the trials and tribulations of a heavy metal band.

“Ric Parnell, our drummer in This is Spinal Tap, passed away today. No one ever rocked harder,” wrote Shearer.

Born in London, Parnell was raised in a performing family, with his grandfather having worked for years in music halls and his father, Jack Parnell, working professionally as the bandleader on The Muppet Show.

Parnell’s big break in the industry came in 1984, as the New York Post noted, when he joined fellow cast members Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Shearer to bring Spinal Tap to life, with the group ultimately becoming an actual musical act that released albums and performed live.

The late actor’s role in the film was part of a memorable, ongoing punchline in the script, whereby every one of the band’s prior drummers had met a premature end, with one of them dying due to spontaneous combustion, which ultimately also claimed the Shrimpton character at the movie’s conclusion.

Though he is certainly known to most for his performance in This is Spinal Tap, that was far from the extent of his professional musical experience, as he also played in the bands Horse and Atomic Rooster in the early 1970s and moved on to collaborate with Toni Basil, Ravi Shankar, Jon Anderson of Yes, Michael Des Barres, and Wayne Kramer.

In recent years, Parnell had become a resident of Missoula, Montana, and he served as a co-host of a radio program humorously named Spontaneous Combustion, as Variety further noted.

Amid news of his friend and colleague’s passing, DesBarres offered touching words of tribute, writing on Twitter, “Some musicians are playing a role. Others are rock ‘n’ roll. Ric Parnell was the latter. The real thing. Lost and found in a rhythm that was both jarring and beautiful. His heart still beats. RIP.”