Damo Suzuki, Legendary Can Vocalist, Dies at 74

Damo Suzuki, April 2018 (Vincenzo Buscemi/Getty Images)

Damo Suzuki, the Japanese musician who spent a handful of memorable years as the lead singer of Can, died yesterday (February 9) at the age of 74. Can’s label, Spoon Records, did not disclose a cause of death in its announcement, but Suzuki had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014. “His boundless creative energy has touched so many over the whole world, not just with Can, but also with his all continents spanning Network Tour,” the label wrote. “Damo’s kind soul and cheeky smile will be forever missed.”

Born Kenji Suzuki in Kobe, Japan, the musician found his way to Germany by the late 1960s, joining Can after bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit spotted him busking outside of a Munich cafe. Can had released just one album, 1969’s Monster Movie, with original vocalist Malcolm Mooney before Suzuki joined for some work on 1970’s Soundtracks. The group’s first full album with Suzuki was 1971’s Tago Mago, a rock masterpiece that paired the band’s excerpted improvisations with Suzuki’s collage of breathless verse, polyglot shrieks, and nervy vocal exorcisms, influencing artists ranging from Radiohead and Talk Talk to Sex Pistols and the Fall.

Tago Mago earned Can cachet in the international press as the leading band of the European rock avant-garde, a reputation cemented with the two formative albums that followed, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, which featured the singles “Vitamin C” and “Spoon,” and the more ambient Future Days, Suzuki’s last album with the band before departing in 1973.

After leaving Can, Suzuki became a Jehovah’s Witness and spent about a decade away from music. When he returned, he played shows globally with different local musicians, referring to the tours as Damo Suzuki’s Network. He recorded numerous Network and solo releases over the ensuing decades, but was best known for his bracing, experimental live performances, which continued until shortly before his death.

“I’m not interested in hanging on to the past,” Suzuki told The Guardian in 2022. “Because I cannot change it. If I cannot change it, I don’t want to spend time there. I like to spend time in the now because there I can create something new, but in the past I cannot.”

With co-author Paul Woods, Suzuki released the memoir I Am Damo Suzuki in 2019. The musician was also the subject of director Michelle Heighway’s 2022 documentary Energy.

Originally Appeared on Pitchfork