Keith Levene, the co-founder of The Clash and Public Image Ltd., died at age 65. Martin Atkins and Jah Wobble, members of his previous band, announced his passing on social media. According to The Guardian, Levene died of liver cancer at his home in Norfolk, England, on Nov. 11.
“It comes as a shock to read that guitar legend Keith Levene has passed away. We had our ups and downs, which faded over time. My admiration for its unique brilliance will never fade.”
Keith Levene was born in London’s Wood Green and has had a lifelong interest in music. He started playing guitar when he was young and has since collaborated with several well-known bands, building a reputation for himself.
Tributes poured in on Twitter after Keith Levene’s death.
Following the news of Keith Levene’s passing, Twitterati expressed their sadness and paid tribute to the amazing guitarist. Several people sent in photos of Levene in his youth, with one calling him “one of the best guitarists of the 1980s.”
RIP Keith Levene. Here he is with Public Image Ltd inventing the best post-punk guitar sounds in a single song. Chant’s full 1979 recording of Check It Out is out https://t.co/Po46rFpVGX pic.twitter.com/tx9PHiUEV9
— Birmingham 81 (@Birmingham_81) Nov 12, 2022
Keith Levene: 1957-2022
REST IN PEACE pic.twitter.com/UOg9jZq2ff
— Graham Crosby (@Gracro5) Nov 12, 2022
Keith Levene got his start in music as a roadie.
Keith Levene was a key figure in the punk and post-punk music scenes in the 1980s. As a youngster he started 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 ready. He did co-write the song What’s My Name from their 1977 album.
After the dissolution of Sex Pistols 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 news site Furious 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 was doing something wrong, like making a mistake or doing something wrong, I was willing to listen.”
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 his departure, 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 at the PiL with British novelist Adam Hammond.