Keith Levene, Co-Founder of The Clash + Public Image Ltd, Has Died at 65
This past Saturday (Nov. 11), Keith Levene – the co-founding guitarist of The Clash and Public Image Ltd – died at the age of 65. As reported by The Guardian, he’d been battling liver cancer at the time.
Although neither band has issued an official statement yet, a few people close to Levene have.
Specifically, former Public Image Ltd drummer Martin Atkins posted to Twitter yesterday (Nov. 12): “A sad time to learn of the passing of guitar giant Keith Levene. We had our ups and downs that had mellowed over time. My respect for his unique talent never will.” Likewise, the group’s former bassist – Jah Wobble – thanked fans for “all the messages of condolence” before clarifying that it's Levene's "partner and family who are really impacted by his passing.”
On that note, Levene’s partner – Kate Ransford – stated that he “passed away . . . peacefully” at “their home” before calling him not only “an iconic guitarist and composer” but also her “best friend.” Similarly, author and longtime friend Adam Hammond tweeted that Levene was “one of the most innovative, audacious and influential guitarists of all time.”
You can see their tweets below.
Born Julian Keith Levene on July 18, 1957 (in London, England), he started as a roadie for progressive rock pioneers Yes before forming punk rock pioneer The Clash alongside vocalist/guitarist Mick Jones, vocalist Joe Strummer, drummer Terry Chimes and bassist Paul Simonon. Although he was let go only a few months after he joined (so he didn’t appear on 1977’s self-titled debut LP), he co-wrote one of its tracks: “What’s My Name.”
Two years later (in 1978), Levene and Sex Pistols frontman John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon started post-punk/new wave troupe Public Image Ltd. Between then and 1983 (when he departed), Levene played multiple instruments on the band’s first three LPs: 1978’s Public Image: First Issue, 1979’s Metal Box and 1981’s The Flowers of Romance. While he was gone by the time of 1984’s This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get, he did co-write several songs on it.
Over the subsequent four decades, Levene kept busy in the music world. For instance, he helped produce demos for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ third studio record, 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. He also released several solo albums, worked with Pigface (on 2003’s Easy Listening... For Difficult F***heads) and reunited with Wobble for some live and studio collaborations about ten years ago.
You can hear some of Levene’s work below.