Jon Lukas, singer of 1970s hit “Can’t Afford To Lose”, dies at 72
Maltese singer Jon Lukas ‘Woodenman’ has died at the age of 72. He had been ill for most of the year.
Jon Lukas, real name Frank Agius, was a household name in the Maltese musical world, whose claim to fame remains his 1970 hit “Can’t Afford To Lose”. Gary Benson’s composition was originally slated for PJ Proby to sing, but was taken over by young Frank Agius after he was spotted by an A&R man singing in London.
Lukas, brother of former Soho restaurateur Jean Agius, has always called the song his ‘national anthem’ – such was the timeless appeal of Maltese radio success.
He looks like his musical career, which never ended until his last years in London, started off with a bit of luck. “Back in the day, telling someone you wanted to be a pop star was crazy.
“It all really happened while I wasn’t watching – this opportunity fell from the sky, but it hasn’t been so easy since,” he later conceded of his modest singing career afterwards. his 1970 hit. “I’m sure there was something lucky about Can’t Afford to Lose; it was the right song at the right time, and I was in the right place.
He began his singing career in 1966 as the frontman of The Fenders. Then, in 1969, he was spotted by EMI-Columbia producer Henry Hadaway, who was in the audience at a concert in Kensington, where he sang a relaxed rendition of “Summertime, by Porgy and Bess.” . Hadaway asked him to have his voice on ‘Can’t Afford to Lose’, with a 25-piece BBC orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The arrangement of the song was by Paul Rodriguez, who at the time was a member of David Bowie‘s first group.
In the 1990s, his brother died of AIDS, which prompted him to launch a nationwide awareness campaign and write the song “Depend on Me” to promote the cause. In 1993 Jon, accompanied by Marita, placed second at that year’s Malta Song Festival with his own composition “Żommni u Għannaqni” – the first time he sang in his native Maltese language.
Lukas counted soul legend Marvin Gaye among his friends. “I knew Marvin pretty well. He was a person I really respected and was close to… he was a person I really admire. Yes, he also had his demons, like all artists, but I knew him beyond that, for the simple things he taught me, so when the opportunity to pay homage arose, I l ‘ve got it.
Later in his life, he underwent cancer treatment. “It was a big challenge because I didn’t know if I was still able to sing,” he said.