27th March, 2000 -Ian Dury died of cancer, exactly two years and two months after his doctors had given him six months to live. He was 57.

He played his final sell-out gig at the London Palladium last month attached to a drip (he's also sung on Madness' last album on a track called 'Drip Fed Fred') The man who once defiantly called himself 'Britain's most famous raspberry ripple' contracted polio at the age of seven. In the 1981 Year Of The Disabled his single 'Spasticus Autisticus' which with lines like 'I dribble when I nibble and my middle is a riddle' was banned by the BBC.

He became a hero to activists rebelling against a society who would have preferred people with disabilities to be meek and grateful. Before he died he was quoted as saying - 'I feel very lucky, as if I've had a blessed life. I've had a major crack at it, which is more than most people get.'

He was born in Harrow in 1942 (although he once told Mojo magazine he was -'conceived at the back of the Ritz, and born at the height of the Blitz'), of parents with contrasting backgrounds, who separated shortly after the end of the war. His mother Peggy, the daughter of a middle-class doctor was university educated (she once rang me asking for a picture of her son and didn't sound a bit like him), and his father, Billy, a former boxer, was a bus driver and later a chauffeur (-'My old man wore 3-piece whistles, he was never home for long, drove a bus for London Transport, he knew where he belonged').

The young Ian went to live in Upminster, Essex with his Mum, but caught polio on a trip to a Southend swimming pool when he was seven (there were nine cases reported that August). The illness irreparably damaged one arm and one leg, so he required callipers. He spent several years in hospital in Cornwall before being dispatched back to Essex on a stretcher. Then came a school for the disabled in Sussex. After this he went on to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe due to passing his 11-plus and courtesy of a grant by Essex County Council. He left with 3 O-levels for Walthamstow Art School.

Then came the Royal College of Art (where he was taught by Peter Blake), a stint teaching art at Canterbury (during which time he also worked as a freelance illustrator). He formed his first band, Kilburn and the High Roads in 1970.

It was his song writing partnership with pianist Chas Jankel and formation of the Blockheads which really made him take off. Jankel fondly remembers their first encounter: after seeing the Kilburns at a gig -'I sort of tiptoed into the dressing room. It looked like a sauna because everyone had just come off the stage steamy and sweaty, and in the middle of this throng I see Ian Dury. He suddenly catches my eye and says -"Do I know you? Well fuck off then." And that was the first thing he actually said to me.

The first album with the new line-up (including Davey Payne from the Kilburns, Mickey Gallagher, Charley Charles, Norman Watt-Roy, John Turnball and Chas Jankel), was the now classic 'New Boots & Panties' put out by the fledgling Stiff Records (slogan: -'If It Ain't Stiff It Ain't Worth A Fuck!').

I chose to play the fool in a six piece band, first night nerves every one-night stand...

As an unlikely pop star he insisted that he was merely continuing on his career as an artist: -"I was a painter for seven years, a successful illustrator of two years, and now I'm a rock and roll singer. I still feel like I'm doing the same thing, but I'm not painting with paints."

Later on he was to turn to acting, and although never in any great or major parts, worked with the likes of Roman Polanski (The Pirates), Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) and alongside the likes of Helen Mirren, Walter Mattau, Omar Sharif and Bob Dylan (Hearts Of Fire). When he first encountered Dylan they were apparently passing one another in a corridor and Dylan, upon seeing Dury just pointed at him and said -'Sweet Gene Vincent' to which Dury countered -'One and the same.' -which was all they initially said!

Much more to his credit he turned down the role of playing Richard III three times and the opportunity to write for Andrew Lloyd Webber for Cats, a commission which reportedly earned millions for Richard Stilgoe (Dury's explanation later was the simple -'I can't stand his music').

Dury had married twice, his first wife Betty was a fellow art student and they had a son and a daughter, Jemima and Baxter. They divorced in 1985 and Betty later died of cancer in 1994. Dury married Sophie Tilson in 1998 shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. She is 23-years his junior, a sculptress and daughter of sixties artist Joe Tilson.

They had two sons, Billy (his father's name), and Albert. When I met and photographed him, she was with him then, and came to my studio. I took them there from the football match I had gone to photograph him giving presenting a prize, which was commissioned by Mail Newspapers.

After the studio session I took them back to Hammersmith. He gave me a piece of paper with his address and telephone number and the message -next time we'll do it!' Not entirely sure what 'it' was, other than it was in a similar vein to -'There's nothing wrong with it!' from the back of the Do It Yourself sleeve.

The last time I saw him play was at the Guildford Folk Festival. He was at this time given a matter of months to live and ordered not to tour, but then Dury had been told this many times during his lifetime, long before being diagnosed with cancer. Still livelier than many younger and lesser bands, Dury, when he first hits the stage shouts out -"Oi-Oi!" and when the crowd isn’t quite as responsive as they could have been with the first response back he say’s -"Is this fucking Guildford or Romford? -"Oi-Oi!!!"

In an interview slightly before this concert, he explained to a journalist with whom he’d broken a previous appointment how he’d just had a heart scare. He said -"I’m normally quite fit, but I went up a few stairs at my house in Hampstead and I was gasping like an old geezer. So I went to see my doctor. He gave me an X-ray and a blood test and an ECG, then he told me to wait and he ran out of the building! I thought bloody ‘ell, is it that bad? He thought I was having a heart attack, and he’s run next door to the surgeon."

Dury chuckled, before proceeding to describe, in great detail, and with many humorous asides, his subsequent hospitalisation. His heart, apparently, was pounding away at an excessive 158bpm. -"I was under examination for the whole day in this progressive care unit. There’s bleepers going off the whole time. The nurse says ‘Don’t look, it’ll just make your heart faster!’"

The next day he received mild electric shock treatment. -"It’s bang on tempo now. I had an ECG two nights ago and from every angle it’s solid, so it’s not heart disease." Dury paused, and with the timing of an old trouper added -"So I’m back on the cancer now thank God!"

Since coming out to the press about his illness he’d been door-stepped by the paparazzi as if he’s a war criminal or something. Talking of this and fame in general he added that he’d read recently that whenever Paul McCartney gets confronted too much, he just walks briskly away, but Dury said -’If I do that I just fall over.’

Who else is going to write line like: -'Think I've got a new one on my nose, don't I look a lemon in these clothes.' and 'Home improvement expert Harold Hill of Harold Hill, of do-it-yourself dexterity, and double-glazing skill, came home to find another gentleman's kippers in the grill, so he sanded off his winkle, with his Black & Decker drill.'' And of course: -'Skinny white sailor the chances were slender, the beauties were brief, shall I mourn your decline with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief, -I miss your sad, Virginia whisper, I miss the voice, that caught my heart......