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OTRC: Robert Wayne Birch, Elton John's bassist, found dead of apparent suicide

Robert Birch appears in a photo posted on his official Facebook page on August 16, 2012. (Facebook.com/EltonJohn)

Elton John is mourning the death of his bass player, Robert Wayne Birch, who was found dead at age 56 of an apparent suicide on August 15, 2012.

Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter told Reuters wire service that Birch's body was found near his home in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. He died of an apparent suicide resulting from a gunshot wound to the head.

Birch, who also played the saxophone, had been Elton John's bass player and backing vocalist since the early 1990s. He also performed with Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Cher, The Backstreet Boys, The Spice Girls, Keith Emerson and The Replacements.

"I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch," John wrote in a statement on his official Facebook page on August 16. "My heart goes out to Bob's wife Michele, his son Jonathan and his family."

"To me Bob was family. He had been a member of my band for 20 years; we played over 1400 concerts together," John continued. "He was one of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with, and in all our years on the road he never played or sang a bad note. I cannot find the words to describe this tragic death, and how much I loved him. May he rest in peace."

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