Keith Levene, the innovative guitarist who was a founding member of The Clash and Public Image Ltddied at the age of 65.
Levene, who had liver cancer, died at his home in Norfolk, leaving a lasting legacy of influence on British rock music.
His influence on the post-punk music scene was hailed by musicians upon news of his death. Among his fans is Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who once described his style as “spectacular”, saying “he explored the possibilities of what you can do with the guitar”.
Forming the Clash with guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon when he was just 18, it was Levene, alongside band manager Bernard Rhodes, who asked 101ers frontman Joe Strummer to the time, to join them. Luckily for the Clash, Strummer had just seen the Sex Pistols play the Nashville Rooms in London and had become convinced that punk was the way to go.
Levene, who was born Julian Levene in Muswell Hill, north London, stayed with the Clash long enough to appear in early gigs and contribute songs, including What’s My Name on their 1977 debut album. moved away from the increasingly political direction of the Clash and enjoyed greater success with PiL.
When the Sex Pistols disbanded in January 1978, lead singer John Lydon (formerly known as Johnny Rotten) and Levene formed the new band with bassist John Wardle (known as Jah Wobble). “John made a wise choice in getting Keith,” Wobble said in 2012.
Their first album, Public image: first issuereached No. 22 in 1978 and was preceded by the classic single Public Image, which reached the Top 10. Their second album, 1979’s metal box, is considered a post-punk classic. Along with various drummers, the lineup introduced inventive new forms of post-punk, dub, free-form jazz and classical music to the Top 20.
Levene said in 2012“People thought I was classically trained, which was bullshit. I knew the E chord and ventured into E minor. We laid out the music on a plate for Lydon. He was very hip at the time and did a very good job. He played synthesizer on the 1981s The flowers of romancewhich was his last work released with PiL, but he performed again with Wobble in the following years.
In 2021, the Quietus site described it as “one of the architects of post-punk sound, his guitar style occupying a space between angular abrasion and pop opulence”.
Levene enjoyed building guitars and had worked on a book on PiL with writer Adam Hammond. His partner, Kate Ransford, who along with her sister, Jill Bennett, and her husband were with him in his final hours, said he died “peacefully, settled, comfortable and loved”. The family asked for privacy.
The death is the second high-profile loss for rock music to be announced in 24 hours. A spokesperson revealed on Friday that Nik Turner, the co-founder of British space rock band Hawkwindhad died aged 82.
Announcing the death of the Oxford-born multi-instrumentalist, a statement posted to social media said ‘the Mighty Thunder Rider’ had ‘passed away peacefully at home’, adding: ‘He has moved on to the next phase of his cosmic journey. , guided by the love of his family, friends and fans.
When Turner was 13, his family moved to Margate, Kent, the town where he was first exposed to rock music. After a period in the merchant navy, he traveled and worked throughout Europe, studying saxophone in his early twenties.
In Berlin he was introduced to free jazz and became convinced that self-expression in music was more important than technique. “I decided what I wanted to do was play free jazz in a rock band. What I was trying to do in Hawkwind, basically,” he said Mojo reviewed in 1999.