Dave Greenfield, 71, longtime keyboardist for first wave British punks The Stranglers has died following complications from COVID-19. The band confirmed the news on Monday (May 4), writing, “We are deeply and profoundly saddened to announce the untimely passing of keyboard legend Dave Greenfield on the evening of 3rd May 2020. Following a stay in hospital for heart problems, Dave tested positive for the COVID-19 virus last Sunday but he sadly lost his battle last night.”
Greenfield is credited with writing the band’s best-known song, the 1981 track “Golden Brown” from the band’s sixth album, La folie. The bouncy track with a dark underpinning thanks to Greenfield’s ominous harpsichord vibes has variously been described as an homage to a woman or to the ravages of heroin. “Dave had been ever present in the band since joining in late 1975 and his keyboard wizardry was world-renowned over his 45 year career in The Stranglers,” the band wrote. “Dave was a lovable, friendly and eccentric character who always had time to chat.”
The English group formed in 1974 and Greenfield replaced original keyboardist/guitarist Hans Wärmling in 1975. The band released their first three albums — Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black and White in just over a year, launching onto the charts with the singles “No More Heroes,” “Peaches” “5 Minutes,” “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” and “Something Better Change.”
“On the evening of Sunday May 3rd my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020. All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to Pam,” said original bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel in a statement. Longtime drummer Jet Black added, “We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world. Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”
The band’s guitarist/singer since 200o, Baz Warne wrote, “We lost a true innovator, musical legend, and one of my dearest friends today. The word genius is bandied around far too easily in this day and age, but Dave Greenfield certainly was one. We stood together on the same side of the stage for 20 years, laughed, joked and shared our lives in the way that only band mates can. I’ll miss him forever. Our thoughts and hearts are with his wife Pam, and to the millions of fans who worshipped at his altar, he’ll never be equalled.”
Greenfield is the latest in a growing list of musicians who have been sickened, lost to COVID-19 or the effects of the novel coronavirus. The increasingly long list that includes John Prine, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Joe Diffie, Matthew Seligman, Lee Konitz, Ellis Marsalis, John “Bucky” Pizzarelli, Wallace Roney, Alan Merrill, rapper Fred the Godson, Manu Dibango and DJ Black N Mild, among others.
Listen to “Golden Brown” below.