Damo Suzuki, Former Can Vocalist, Dies Aged 74
Former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki has died at the age of 74.
The musician had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and in 2014 was given a 10% chance of survival. Continuing to undergo treatment, news of his death has been confirmed by multiple sources.
The Japanese born musician spent the late 60s busking around Europe, developing his unique vocal style in the process. Drawn into the orbit of German experimental group Can, he replaced their original vocalist Malcolm Mooney and the music he recorded during his time with the band arguably represents their zenith.
Suzuki was a key part of Can during the making of their iconic records during the early 1970s. He fronted the Cologne-based band when they recorded their string of highly-acclaimed, sonically ground-breaking releases Soundtracks, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days before departing late in 1973. His intense, at times almost non-verbal style of singing broke all boundaries, re-moulding the way a rock frontman could operate.
The Damo Suzuki-fronted Can albums went on to exert a colossal influence on the post-punk movement – not for nothing did Mark E Smith write the highly Can-like tribute I Am Damo Suzuki from The Fall’s classic 1985 album, This Nation’s Saving Grace.
Suzuki left Can to dedicate more time to religion, although some members claimed he’d been brainwashed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After his departure he stopped making music for a decade but re-emerged after recovering from cancer – and leaving the church.
Remaining a wandering spirit, Suzuki’s more recent work involved extensive touring, forming unique groups for each location. Dubbed Sound Carriers, these ad hoc ensembles would interpret his ideas, and then splinter, leaving Damo free to move forwards.
“I’m not interested in hanging on to the past,” he said of his approach to making music in an interview with 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.”
Writing and recording to the end, Damo Suzuki’s most recent album Arkaoda was released in 2022.
Tributes to the ground-breaking musician have begun to pour in via social media. English experimentalist Robin Rimbaud wrote “A sad farewell to Damo Suzuki (1950-2024), who between 1970 and 1973 led pioneering German band Can through its unquestionable peak, and pretty much lived on a never-ending world tour since then.”