PIL and THE CLASH founding guitarist Keith Levene dead at 65

14 November 2022
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Keith Levene, the guitarist who was a founding member of both THE CLASH and PUBLIC IMAGE LTD, has died at the age of 65.

The news was broken by author and writer Adam Hammond.

In a statement on Twitter, Hammond wrote(opens in new tab), "It is with great sadness I report that my close friend and legendary Public Image Limited guitarist Keith Levene passed away on Friday 11th November. There is no doubt that Keith was one of the most innovative, audacious and influential guitarists of all time.
"Keith sought to create a new paradigm in music and with willing collaborators John Lydon and Jah Wobble succeeded in doing just that. His guitar work over the nine minutes of Theme, the first track on the first PiL album, defined what alternative music should be.
"As well as helping to make PiL the most important band of the age, Keith also founded The Clash with Mick Jones and had a major influence on their early sound. So much of what we listen to today owes much to Keith's work, some of it acknowledged, most of it not.
"Our thoughts and love go out to his partner Kate, sister Jill and all of Keith's family and friends. The world is a darker place without his genius. Mine will be darker without my mate."
Levene was born in North London in 1957, and became obsessed with YES guitarist Steve Howe as a teenager. He eventually worked for the band as a 15-year-old, becoming a member of the road crew for the Close To The Edge tour. 
In 1976 hooked up with Mick Jones to form THE CLASH, but was a member of the band for just eight months, and never recorded with them. He did, however, play a significant role in the band's history, after approaching Joe Strummer at a 101'ers gig and convincing him to join the band. 
In 1978 he joined the founding line-up of PUBLIC IMAGE LTD alongside former Sex Pistol John Lydon, bassist Jah Wobble and drummer Jim Walker. He played on the band's first three albums, PUBLIC IMAGE LTD in 1978, Metal Box the following year, and The Flowers of Romance in 1981. He left during the recording of the fourth album, 1984's This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get, as musical differences and ego clashes took their toll. 
After leaving PiL Levene's career became more low key, but his angular, razor-edged playing continued to influence a generation of post-punk musicians, from Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who said Levene “explored the possibilities of what you can do with the guitar”, to Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie, who said he "reinvented rock guitar playing."
No cause of death has been announced.
Source: loudersound.com