The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19.
Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems.
He penned the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982.
The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a “musical genius”.
He said: “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 [Greenfield’s wife] Pam.”
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 Stranglers formed in 1974 in Guildford, Surrey. Greenfield, who originated from Brighton, joined within a year and they went on to be associated with the punk era.
He was soon known for his distinctive sound and playing style on instruments including the harpsichord and Hammond electric organ. Critics compared his sound to that of Ray Manzarek from The Doors.
In an interview with the band’s website, however, the man himself said he was more influenced by a couple of other famous keyboard players.
“The only tracks by the Doors I knew were Light My Fire & Riders on the Storm,” said Greenfield. “Before I joined my main influences were probably Jon Lord [Deep Purple] and then Rick Wakeman [Yes].”
In the same interview he said he always considered the Stranglers to be “more new wave, than punk”, and also admitted to having had an interest in the occult, evident from him wearing a pentagram pendant in many early band pictures.
“The Pentagram represents the microcosm (as opposed to the macrocosm),” he said. “The relation between the self and the universe. I studied (not practiced) the occult quite intensively in those days.”
‘Musical skill and gentle nature’
Golden Brown, perhaps Greenfield’s finest moment, eventually won them an Ivor Novello award; however his bandmates initially discarded the song and did not consider it a single.
The band’s other hits include No More Heroes, Peaches and Something Better Change. They continued touring and recording after original frontman Hugh Cornwell left in 1990.
Cornwell posted on Twitter he was “very sorry” to hear of his old bandmate’s passing.
“He was the difference between The Stranglers and every other punk band,” wrote Cornwell.
“His musical skill and gentle nature gave an interesting twist to the band. He should be remembered as the man who gave the world the music of Golden Brown.”
Current vocalist and guitarist Baz Warne described Greenfield as “a true innovator” and a “musical legend”.
“The word genius is bandied around far too easily in this day and age, but Dave Greenfield certainly was one,” said Warne.
The band recently postponed their farewell tour from this summer due to the pandemic.