Popular Leeds busker Jonny Walker dies suddenly

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A Leeds musician who busked in cities all over the UK has passed away suddenly.

Jonny Walker, 37, of Beeston, was a well-known face on the city's music scene.

The father-of-two spent three days in high-dependency care at Leeds General Infirmary before his death was announced this week.

Jonny touched hearts when he joined in a duet with Irish street sleeper Bernard Davey on New Year's Eve two years ago. The pair were filmed singing Ella Fitzgerald's Summertime outside the Trinity Centre in a video which went viral on social media.

Bernard, who was also known as Belfast Brian, died in December 2016.
At the time Jonny, who was also a social activist, said:

"It just blew me away. It summed up for me everything I love about busking – the unpredictability of the streets. That is why I do what I do.

“I’ve seen Bernard slumped in shop doorways drunk and in quite a bad way and recently I’d seen him in a wheelchair and thought he’d really gone downhill. But I never realised he was a singer. On New Year’s Eve I was busking outside Trinity and he approached me and asked to sing with me. I started playing and his voice was absolutely incredible – I couldn’t believe how good it was.”

Jonny was also the director of the Keep Streets Live! campaign, fighting for the rights of buskers and homeless people all over the country. He travelled around more than 50 towns and cities to perform, including Liverpool, York, Chester, Huddersfield and Whitby.

Thousands of tributes from fans as far afield as the USA and New Zealand have poured in on Jonny's official Facebook page.

Matt Davis commented: "Awful. What an utter tragedy. His kids go to the same nursery as mine. Always a smile on his face dropping them off. Would do anything for anyone."

Ainsley Wills added: "Much as we disagreed on many things, I am devastated to hear about Jonny's death. He was an awesome musician, a fighter of justice and an all-round decent chap that has left far too soon. My heart goes out to his family and friends and the musical community that knew him."

Amanda Lawrence wrote: "So shocked and saddened by this tragic news. The Red Hat Ladies will miss you Jonny. You brought much joy into our lives. You also sang at my retirement party and my family send condolensces to yours. My young grandson loves your CD you gave him and is learning to play the piano now, playing some of your songs. Your music and memories live on. A wonderful, kind and talented man who will be greatly missed by so many."

A statement posted on behalf of Jonny's family read:

"It is with great sorrow but immense thankfulness for a passionately lived life, that after three days in the Critical Care Unit at Leeds General Infirmary, Jonny died peacefully surrounded by family.

"During the coming days, his family ask that you allow them time to grieve. Details of opportunities to celebrate and remember Jonny's life will follow in due time."

Anyone who has booked Jonny to perform at an event is asked to contact his management Steven Heath Entertainment.

Facebook Live performance with Jonny Walker from April 2017