Two legendary piano players have paid tribute to longtime Elton John bassist Bob Birch, who died at age 56 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Wednesday (Aug. 15). Both John and his frequent touring partner Billy Joel, with whom Birch also performed, offered kind words through statements on their websites.

John’s post, which can be seen in its entirety below, includes a few brief words about his relationship with Birch, and reveals just how important the musician, born Robert Wayne Birch, was to his success over the past two decades:

“I am devastated and shocked at the loss of my friend and fellow musician, Bob Birch. 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.  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.”

In addition to his work with Elton John, Birch played musicians like Eric Clapton, Keith Emerson, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, and Sting. He is prominently featured on the single ‘Candle in the Wind’ (1997 version), as well as many of John’s most recent albums. He also supported John and Joel during their frequent co-headlining tours. Joel also paid tribute the bassist through a post on his official website:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bob Birch. He was a brilliant musician, a true professional and a wonderful man to work with. After 16 years on the road together I considered him to be a good friend. I and all the people in my touring organization will miss him very much.”

More From Eagle 106.3