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Kevin Ayers (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
LONDON (AP) - Kevin Ayers, an influential singer-songwriter who co-founded the band Soft Machine, has died in France, his record label said Thursday. He was 68.

Ayers was an important figure in the British psychedelic movement spearheaded by the Beatles in the late 1960s. He did not achieve sustained commercial success, but his work is treasured by musicians and many fans.

Jack McLean, assistant to the managing director of Lo-Max Records in London, said Thursday that Ayers' body had been discovered in his bed at his home in the medieval village Montolieu in the south of France.

"We believe he died Feb. 18 of natural causes and was found two days later," McLean said. "He hadn't been ill, but he lived a rock 'n' roll lifestyle and everything that comes with that."

Ayers, who was raised partly in Malaysia, moved to Canterbury on his return to England and formed Soft Machine in 1966 with drummer and singer Robert Wyatt. They took the name from a novel by beat generation author William Burroughs.

The band was part of the "Canterbury scene" - a group of bands known for a pastoral approach to music that combined elements of jazz, folk and rock music.

Soft Machine and Pink Floyd both enjoyed wide followings for their imaginative and experimental take on psychedelia. They were also known for their free-form, jazz-influenced live improvisations.

Ayers also had a lengthy solo career and made many collaborative records, working with Syd Barrett, Brian Eno, Nico and others. He released "The Unfairground" in 2007, ending a lengthy hiatus with an album that was critically acclaimed.

The record company said Ayers is survived by three daughters and a sister.

GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press


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