Alan Vega, proto-punk icon and singer in electro-punk duo Suicide, died on Saturday in his sleep, at age 78, the New York Times reports. His friend Henry Rollins first announced the news on his website, via a statement from Vega’s family. Throughout the 1970s and into the early ‘80s, Vega fronted the New York City duo with Martin Rev, emerging as an early punk originator and leader in electronic music. At the height of Suicide’s influence, Vega, a formidable front man, started a famous riot during a concert in Brussels opening for Elvis Costello; it was documented in a 23-minute bootleg recording. On his own, Vega was a fierce solo musician and visual artist for decades, who still intermittently performed with Suicide — even after a heart attack and stroke in 2012 — and continued to create art right up until his death.
While underappreciated for most of his career, in death, Vega’s being remembered as a godfather of punk iconoclasm. Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, MGMT, and former Majical Cloudz singer Devon Welsh have all released musical tributes to Vega. Welsh says he wrote “Me and Alan Vega” for Vega in 2011 but never released it until now, while Butler has covered Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” (under his DJ Windows 98 alterego), and MGMT have covered Vega’s 1983 solo song “Goodbye Darling.” Listen to all three tributes below.
“Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock and roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him.”