Alan Vega, one half of the seminal electronic duo Suicide, died yesterday. He was 78.
Henry Rollins first reported the news via his website. Rollins also posted a message from Vega's family:
With profound sadness and a stillness that only news like this can bring, we regret to inform you that the great artist and creative force, Alan Vega has passed away.
Alan passed peacefully in his sleep last night, July 16. He was 78 years of age.
Alan was not only relentlessly creative, writing music and painting until the end, he was also startlingly unique. Along with Martin Rev, in the early 1970’s, they formed the two person avant band known as Suicide. Almost immediately, their incredible and unclassifiable music went against every possible grain. Their confrontational live performances, light-years before Punk Rock, are the stuff of legend. Their first, self-titled album is one of the single most challenging and noteworthy achievements in American music.
Alan Vega was the quintessential artist on every imaginable level. His entire life was devoted to outputting what his vision commanded of him.
One of the greatest aspects of Alan Vega was his unflinching adherence to the demands of his art. He only did what he wanted. Simply put, he lived to create. After decades of constant output, the world seemed to catch up with Alan and he was acknowledged as the groundbreaking creative individual he had been from the very start.
Alan’s life is a lesson of what it is to truly live for art. The work, the incredible amount of time required, the courage to keep seeing it and the strength to bring it forth—this was Alan Vega.
Alan is survived by his amazing family, wife Liz and son Dante. His incredible body of work, spanning five decades, will be with us forever.
As NME noted, the Jesus And Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen, Thurston Moore, Nick Cave, New Order, Steve Albini, MIA and LCD Soundsystem are among the bands-musicians who have cited Suicide and Vega as an influence on their own music.
Early on, though, Vega, who was born in Bensonhurst, didn't think that people liked the band so much.
From a profile in Brooklyn magazine last December:
Vega, New York City punk icon, spent over a decade convinced that no one liked his band. “Suicide was hated by everybody. Everybody! It’s true. You should have seen the night we opened for The Ramones [at CBGBs],” he says. “They were late. Hilly [Kristal, CBGBs owner] was going nuts. So we had to go on… again! You should have heard the fuckin’ ‘Booooooooooooooooo.’ You couldn’t stop it, it was endless. Finally, the Ramones showed up, but Jesus Christ, we still had to do a few songs.”
He can laugh about it now, but for him and bandmate Martin Rev, the 70s were pretty rough. “They hated us from the day we started.” So he started swinging bicycle chains at their gigs to overtly menace the crowds unready to embrace Suicide’s brutally minimal, sorta terrifying music, because, fuck ‘em.
A few tributes via Instagram...
Thinking of Alan Vega today. Woke up to this picture floating around the web portending the bad news. Unlike anything I'd ever seen onstage when I shot this at CBGB in 1977. Always warm & supportive in person. My thoughts go out to his wife Liz & son Dante. Also Rev. So glad I saw them astound the crowd at Webster Hall last year. Dream Baby Dream. #photobygodlis