It’s been a sad week in music, with two great European musicians passing away, although both deaths slipped somewhat underneath the radar over here. Rest in peace Dave Greenfield and Florian Schneider.
Greenfield was the very talented keyboard player for Britain’s longest-running “punk” band, The Stranglers. He passed away on Sunday at age 71 from covid19. As Britain’s The Telegraph noted, the band “rode the punk wave of the 1970’s without sounding anything like their peers”, largely because of Greenfield’s prominent and varied keyboard riffs.
Band singer and bassist JJ Burnel wrote “on the evening of Sunday, May 3rd, my good friend and colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield passed away,one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020.” Hugh Cornwell, the band’s original guitarist (and recently something of an outspoken critic of) added that Greenfield’s “musical skill and gentle nature added an interesting twist to the band” and reminded us that it was Dave who wrote their biggest hit,“Golden Brown”, a fact not obvious to many as they shared songwriting credits as a band back then.
Greenfield had gone to hospital for a heart problem and apparently contracted the corona virus there.
Schneider was one of the pair of German musicians who founded Kraftwerk, the most influential of the electronic bands of the ’70s. They described themselves as “klangchemiker” or “sound chemists.” While a few other bands were using some synthesizers and electronics in the early-’70s, Kraftwerk took it to whole new levels making an almost new genre from them. So invested in the idea were they that Schneider invented a new type of synthesizer and built it himself, as well as creating an electric flute.
Although outside of Germany Kraftwerk didn’t score many notable hits (the closest they got to it on this side of the Atlantic was the hypnotic 1973 song “Autobahn” which hit the top 30 in North America, in the UK they scored two #1s in the ’80s. And influenced a whole range of artists. David Bowie was a famous fan of theirs and as the BBC put it “the band set the sonic template for everything from hip-hop to dance music.” Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet said of Kraftwerk they were “an important influence on so much of the music we know… they forged a new metropolis of music for all of us to live in.” Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys simply stated “they started it all.”
Schneider had left the band in 2008. He passed away from cancer just past his 73rd birthday.