Rock singer Damo Suzuki dies aged 74

Damo Suzuki, the Japanese-born singer who fronted pioneering krautrock group Can during the band’s creative peak, has died aged 74.

Suzuki’s death was confirmed on Saturday afternoon via Can’s Instagram channel. While the cause of his death was not stated, the Cologne-based musician was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014, having first been diagnosed with the disease 30 years earlier.

“It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our wonderful friend Damo Suzuki, yesterday, Friday 9th February 2024,” the message on Can’s account said.

“His boundless creative energy has touched so many over the whole world, not just with Can, but also with his all continent spanning Network Tour. Damo’s kind soul and cheeky smile will be forever missed.”

“He will be joining Michael, Jaki and Holger for a fantastic jam!,” it added. Can founding members Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay, as well as guitarist Michael Karoli have all preceded Suzuki in death.

Born Kenji Suzuki in the Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo, the singer left Japan as a teenager to travel around Europe and live in hippy communes. In 1970 Can’s founding members Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit spotted Suzuki playing as a street musician in Munich’s bohemian Schwabing quarter and engaged him to play their first gig for them that very same night.

“There were no instructions from the band,” he recalled in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2018. “I was meant to just walk on stage and do anything.”

His improvisational singing style – mixing words in English, Japanese and his own made-up languages – became key to Can’s sound.

Between 1970 and 1973 he led the band through its unquestionable peak, including a trio of albums as bold and revolutionary as any in the 20th-century rock canon: Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days. Musicians such as David Bowie, Radiohead and Talking Heads have all cited the German group as an influence.

After getting married and joining Jehova’s Witnesses, Suzuki left Can in 1973. He resurfaced with several new band projects in the 1980s, including his own Damo Suzuki Band and a music label, Damo’s Network.

First diagnosed with cancer when he was 33, a 2022 documentary revealed that Suzuki was given a 10% chance of survival when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014.

The Guardian