Berlin (AFP) – The co-founder of electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider, has died at the age of 73 from cancer, the managers of the group announced Wednesday.
The band, which he set up with co-founder Ralf Hutter in 1970, changed electronic music, laying down the foundations for hip-hop, synth-pop, techno and house.
“Florian Schneider died after a short cancer, just a few days after his 73rd birthday,” one of the group’s managers, Alexandra Greenberg, told AFP, quoting comments from Hutter.
Born in Ohningen in West Germany in April 1947, Schneider started collaborating with Hutter in 1968.
The pair combined their German mother tongue with synthesisers and drum machines to create”krautrock”, a major contrast to the Anglo-Saxon pop brought in by the British and American troops in Germany.
Some have placed Kraftwerk’s influence on pop music on a par with that of The Beatles.
Their music, with its distorted vocals, haunting basslines mixed with the synthesizer pads and drum machine, won over many audiences and artists, from David Bowie and Madonna to Daft Punk and Kanye West.
In 1976 Bowie told Rolling Stone magazine: “My favourite group is a German band called Kraftwerk – it plays noise music to ‘increase productivity’. I like that idea, if you have to play music.”
David Bowie titled his “Heroes” instrumental track “V-2 Schneider” after Florian Schneider.
Their words, in German then in Spanish, Russian, Polish or Japanese, also made them pioneers. From the 1970s, they tapped into the ubiquity of machines and the growing role of technology in everyday life.
An avant-garde group and influential protagonists of contemporary art, Kraftwerk had a string of global successes with their albums “Autobahn” (1974), “Radioactivity” (1975), “Trans-Europe Express” (1977), “The Man Machine” (1978) and even the later “Tour de France Soundtracks” (2003).
Florian Schneider left the group at the end of 2008, apparently following a dispute with Hutter over a bicycle pump.
The pair rarely spoke afterwards but in 2014, the band, including Schneider, received the prestigious lifetime achievement Grammy.