A statement from Kraftwerk published today has revealed that co-founder Florian Schneider has passed away.
Schneider died of cancer “just a few days” after his birthday on April 7, 2020, the statement reads.
Kraftwerk was founded in Dusseldorf in 1970 by Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter. The band, which is now lead by Hutter, had planned a 50 year anniversary tour this summer prior to the coronavirus pandemic and widespread cancellation of live concerts.
In the first 20 years of his career, Schneider and Kraftwerk played a part in launching more major music genres than any act I can think of other than Miles Davis or George Clinton. Among the pioneers of the emergent “krautrock” or kosmische Musik movement of the 1970s, Kraftwerk would play a singular role in pouring the foundations for electronic music. Detroit techno pioneers like Juan Atkins made reference to Kraftwerk’s foundational productions, and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” connected the dots from the proto-machine percussion of Kraftwerk’s seminal “Trans-Europe Express” into the 808 dreams of early hip hop.
Just fragments of songs like “Trans-Europe Express” and the opening instrumental portion of “Radioactivity” would become hugely influential as electronic music looked for inspiration from the recent past.
From the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, Kraftwerk went on a run of great albums, including Autobahn, Radioactivity, Trans-Europe Express, Computer World, The Man Machine and Electric Café – an unparalleled discography in electronic music and among the greatest treasure of refined gems you can find from any act.
Kraftwerk also experimented and sometimes transformed the medium of playing music more than most other bands. Frequently miming the playing of music onstage (which electronic acts such as Moby would frequently have to do when they found themselves playing “live” at rock clubs in the 1990s), you can find the ancestor of many of the light and spectacle shows now typical at music festivals in Kraftwerk’s stage presentations. This often spread to toying with the format of music as well. In 1978, Kraftwerk released what was probably the first glow-in-the-dark record with Neon Lights, which 5 Mag wrote about in our collection of weird and unusual vinyl.
Florian Schneider parted from Kraftwerk more than a decade ago and the band is now lead by original member Ralf Hutter. It was under this guise that Kraftwerk headlined Movement 2016 in Detroit: