Keith Levene, the co-founder of The Clash and Public Image Ltd., died at the age of 65. Martin Atkins and Jah Wobble, members of his former band, announced his passing on social media. Levene died of liver cancer at his home in Norfolk, England, on Nov. 11, according to The Guardian.
“It comes as a shock to read that guitar legend Keith Levene has passed away. We had our ups and downs, which were ironed out with time. My admiration for his singular genius will never fade.
Born in Wood Green in London, Keith Levene has had a lifelong interest in music. He started playing the guitar in his early teens and has since collaborated with several well-known bands, building a good reputation with them.
Following Keith Levene’s death, tributes poured in on Twitter.
Following the news of Keith Levene’s passing, Twitterati expressed their grief and paid respect to the great guitarist. Several people sent in photos of Levene in his youth, with one calling him “one of the greatest guitarists of the 1980s.”
RIP Keith Levene. Here he is with Public Image Ltd coming up with the best post-punk guitar sounds in one song. The complete 1979 recording of Chant from Check It Out is on it https://t.co/Po46rFpVGX pic.twitter.com/tx9PHiUEV9
— Birmingham 81 (@Birmingham_81) November 12, 2022
Keith Levene: 1957-2022
REST IN PEACE pic.twitter.com/UOg9jZq2ff
— Graham Crosby (@Gracro5) November 12, 2022
Keith Levene started out in music as a roadie.
Keith Levene was a pivotal figure in the 1980s punk and post-punk music scenes. As a youngster, he began his music career as a roadie for the progressive rock band Yes. He created the rock band The Clash with Mick Jones in 1976, but dropped out before their debut album was completed. He did co-write the song What’s My Name from their 1977 album.
After the Sex Pistols disbanded in 1978, Levene founded Public Image Ltd. with vocalist John Lydon, drummer Jim Walker and bassist Jah Wobble. PiL elevated the punk music scene with their mix of reggae and dub, which featured prominently on their 1979 album Metal Box. Levene worked on the band’s first and third albums, Public Image: First Issue and Flowers of Romance, respectively.
In an interview with the Furious news site in 2001, Levene stated:
“What happened to me was that after I mastered the rules, I didn’t want to be like any other guitarist.” I made no effort to stand out. I just got a keen sense of what was wrong. So if I did something wrong, like make a mistake or do something wrong, I was willing to listen to it again.”
Levene left the band in 1983, although he contributed lyrics to their fourth studio album, This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get. After leaving, Levene moved to Los Angeles. In 2012, he reunited with his PiL bandmate Wobble to release the song Yin & Yang. According to The Guardian, Keith had been working on a book about his time in the PiL with British novelist Adam Hammond.