Keith Levene, the innovative guitarist who was a founding member of Clash and Public Image Ltd, has died in Norfolk, UK. He was 65.
His death was announced via social media on Saturday (November 12) by former Public Image Ltd bandmates Martin Atkins and Jah Wobble. Levene died after a battle with liver cancer, The Guardian reports.
Billboard has contacted Public Image Ltd representatives for comment.
“A sad time to hear of the passing of guitar giant Keith Levene,” Atkins wrote on Twitter. “We had our ups and downs that had mellowed over time. My respect for his unique talent will never.”
“RIP KEITH LEVENE,” Wobble said.
Author Adam Hammond, a friend of Levene, wrote on Twitter that he died on Friday (November 11), noting: “There is no doubt that Keith was one of the most innovative, daring and influential guitarists of all time.”
Levene, who was born in London in 1957 and as a teenager was a roadie for Yesco-founded the Clash, but left the band before their first album was even released.
He teamed up with guitarist Mick Jones in the mid-1970s to form an early version of the Clash. Along with the band’s manager Bernard Rhodes, Levene convinced Joe Strummer to join the group. Levene left before the act began recording, but co-wrote the song “What’s My Name”, which appears on the Clash’s 1977 debut album.
After leaving the Clash, Levene briefly formed the band Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious, who later left to join Six guns. When the Sex Pistols disbanded in 1978, Levene and singer John Lydon teamed up with bassist John Wardle (aka Jah Wobble) and drummer Jim Walker to form Public Image Ltd.
Levene contributed to Public Image Ltd’s earliest albums — First problem (1978), Metal box (1979) and The flowers of romance (1981) – and left the group in mid-1983.
Later in his career, Levene worked on a handful of solo projects, including 1989’s Violent oppositionwith members of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Music is important to me because I’m a composer. It turns out I’m a really good musician and composer. I can’t read music, I’m self-taught … I was never really into punk, it just came the right time,” Levene said in an interview with the publication Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Zine.
He recalled his early years as a musician: “When I got on tour with Yes, I realized I wanted to be in a band. Having a band was a big f—ing thing for a 15-year-old. I’m looking at this cherry red guitar in my little bedroom I remember like it was yesterday looking at this thing thinking I had to get a real Gibson I knew myself well enough at the time to know that I wouldn’t allow myself to have a Gibson unless I could play really, really well, properly.”